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The Undergraduate Assembly has a perception problem. Despite a number of significant recent achievements -- including the construction of a new outdoor basketball court and the successful attraction of a new 24-hour diner -- the student government body continues to suffer from a number of popular misunderstandings about the impact of its work and the inclination of its leadership. Some, including UA Chairman Michael Bassik, say that the organization is the just victim of a poor public relations effort, one that gives students the wrong impression of the group and its pro-student activism. Others say that the UA's wavering popularity is the fault of its leaders, who they say spend more time cozying up to University administrators than speaking with other students. Certainly, the UA's unfocused publicity efforts have affected its stature on campus. Students often hear their leaders praise administrators and discuss their past successes, but rarely are they exposed to thoughtful discussion and commentary on the most pressing issues. Without question, the UA's impact on large-scale issues -- like the debate over sweatshop monitoring organizations -- is limited. But the fact that students aren't hearing commentary on those issues from their leaders is hurting the UA's image. And in a small community like Penn, image is success. We believe that the UA needs to continue its successful work on the issues that are meaningful to students, like campus retail and recreational space. But while they do so, the organization must also be careful to always portray an image of student activism, for its success rests with the confidence of the student body that it is working on issues both large and small. The UA must continue to work to develop a more effective, issue-based dialogue with the students it represents. Whether through specific measures such as frequent e-mail updates or general improvements in the way the UA presents itself, the future of the body rests with its ability to stimulate a more positive perception of its work.

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