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The UA's board members. (Photo from Michael Krone)

To all of our fellow Quakers, welcome back to campus! Whether you are a first-year student who has just gotten your first semester under your belt or a senior gearing up for graduation, the Undergraduate Assembly wishes you the best possible start to your spring semester. We wanted to take a moment to show how far we have come over the past semester and to share our goals for the remainder of the year.

For those of you that might not be familiar with what the UA is, we are the elected, representative branch of Penn Student Government charged with advocating on behalf of students to administrators, funding student activities, and providing services to the student body. You might have taken a ride on one of our airport shuttles home for Thanksgiving (and look out for them again in advance of spring break!). But the UA provides so much more. 

Since we were elected in April, the UA has focused on improving transparency, accountability, student wellness, inclusivity, and community engagement. We started internally by revamping our committee-based structure and forming five new committees: Academic Initiatives, Dining, Housing, and Transit, Equity and Inclusion, Student and Campus Life, and Sustainability and Community Impact. We introduced new internal project management tools and accountability mechanisms such as highlighting all of our projects on our website and publishing a Mid-Session Report to demonstrate our progress to the student body.

Credit: Autumn Powell

We achieved great progress in the fall on a number of fronts. We partnered with the Penn Voter Engagement Council to help improve civic engagement on campus and increase voter turnout and education in the 2018 elections. We continued on our endeavors to reform the club recruitment process, and we look forward to seeing improved digital resources for club recruitment management. We began analysis into how to restructure tutoring and peer advising in undergraduate schools to achieve parity in student experience, and we are looking to expand the availability of syllabi on Penn InTouch. We worked with minority coalitions on campus to advocate for increases in available funding for groups under their jurisdiction and will continue to push for adequate funding and spaces for our cultural, performing arts, and recreational groups on campus. 

Our work, however, is far from over. Looking ahead to this semester, we aim to finish what we started to the best of our ability to improve the student experience. We plan to revive the graduate-undergraduate mentorship program in partnership with the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, continue to examine ways to provide menstrual products for students in key campus locations, reduce the carbon and plastic footprint of the University, and more. Our approach is to research diligently and creatively apply solutions to problems. Whether that means tracking increases in tuition over the past 20 years and projecting them into the future, coordinating funding allocations to student groups, or attempting to understand the nuanced implications of new housing policies, the data will drive the answers. 

We will continue working hard for all of you as your elected representatives and appointed peers. We ask that you engage, that you speak up, and that you let us know what is on your mind and how Penn can be improved. 

If you have anything to share to improve your Penn experience or that of others, we encourage you to come to our first-ever Open Forum GBM this Sunday, January 27 at 9pm in the Ben Franklin Room in Houston Hall. We are specifically devoting time at this meeting to hear from members of the community, so please come out to share your thoughts! 

Otherwise, find us on Locust Walk tabling once a week (usually with free candy!) or fill out our suggestion box to help us add to our list of projects. We are excited to hear from you and to work hard for you and for a better Penn. 

You can reach the UA Executive Board at the following email addresses: President: Michael Krone (president@pennua.org), Vice President: Jordan Andrews (vp@pennua.org), Speaker: Brian Goldstein (speaker@pennua.org), Treasurer: Natasha Menon (treasurer@pennua.org), Secretary: Mercedes Owens (secretary@pennua.org). 

All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.