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Today marks the beginning of the voting period for the next year's Undergraduate Assembly, currently headed by President Abe Sutton and Vice President Gabe Delaney. Over the course of the past week, the DP has spoken individually to the two presidential candidates, College juniors Joyce Kim and Delaney, as well as the two vice presidential candidates, College junior Joshua Chilcote and College sophomore Julie Bittar. We attended last Wednesday’s presidential debate and carefully considered the candidates’ responses. And we have ultimately decided to endorse Delaney for UA president and Chilcote for vice president.

The presidential candidates’ platforms and qualifications are similar in many respects. Both highlight mental health issues and better communication with students as priorities; both have had previous experience with communicating with Penn administrators and leading student organizations. That being said, Delaney gave better answers at the debate, offering more tangible goals for which we as a student body can hold him accountable. We are especially impressed by his plan to create individual liaisons between student groups and the UA in order to improve communication. We also believe that his current position as the head of UA Steering will aid in connecting student leaders and administrators.

Furthermore, we wholly support Delaney’s commitment to changing the internal structure of the UA, which did not seem to be shared — certainly not to the same extent — by Kim. After the recent impeachment debacle, it’s clear that something needs to be improved internally, and we believe that Delaney’s plans to empower other UA members through a more horizontal structure will be crucial to making the necessary changes.

While deciding who to endorse for vice president, we focused on the primary function of the position: to serve as a liaison between student organizations and the UA. We believe that Chilcote’s experience as the co-chair of a UA steering group, PRISM, has given him necessary insight into the process.

Furthermore, we agree that Bittar has impressive qualifications — especially from her work with mental health at Penn and the Penn Undergraduate Health Coalition. However, these are projects she can continue to work on and improve outside of the vice presidential role, and perhaps even to a greater extent without the added responsibilities that would come with being the head of Steering.

While we stand by our endorsements, we want to encourage the entire student body to read the candidates’ statements. This is truly our time to make our opinions about the UA — whether positive or negative — heard and to create tangible forward momentum in the relationship between the UA and the student body.

Finally, regardless of who is elected, we hope that we will see changes in the structure of the UA and better communication with the student body and representation of student interests. After all, if student attitudes toward the UA don’t change, who’s sitting on top next year may not matter very much at all. 

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