Next week's Undergraduate Assembly election ballot will now include three constitutional referenda, according to Nominations and Elections Committee Chairperson and Wharton senior Ning Hsu. Hsu initially decided Tuesday to postpone voting on two referenda submitted that night by College senior Eric Tienou, citing lack of preparation and publicity time. UA Chairperson and College senior Lance Rogers requested the change. According to Rogers, NEC bylaws state that policies on voting dates and referenda must be established with the "advice and consent of the UA." "I felt that it was only fair that all of the referenda had an equal chance of being ratified, by getting the 20 percent turnout needed," Rogers said. All constitutional changes require a majority vote to pass, but the vote is invalid if less than 20 percent of the student body votes. Rogers requested that all three plans be voted on either next week or on April 16-17 -- the NEC's original date for the two late referenda. The plans include one which would create a new representative body in place of the UA, one to replace the UA with a student body president and a third allowing students to vote on the allocation of the Student Activities Council budget.
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This spring's Undergraduate Assembly election ballot will feature only one referendum proposing student government reform, according to Nominations and Elections Committee Chairperson Ning Hsu. Two other constitutional reforms were submitted too late to make the March 26-27 ballot. "They really are confusing and we don't have enough time to publicize them," said Hsu, a Wharton senior. Hsu explained that the two latecomers also lacked the requisite number of signatures. She added that if the proposals receive sufficient signatures, they can be voted on at a later date. The plan which will be on the ballot was co-authored by Wharton senior Gil Beverly, College senior Graham Robinson, College junior Mosi Bennett and 1995 College graduate Rick Gresh. Beverly is vice chairperson of the UA, Robinson was chairperson of the Student Activities Committee Steering Committee, Bennett is president of the Social Planning and Events Committee and a former UA secretary and Gresh is the former Nominations and Elections Committee chairperson. The reform plan calls for the formation of a new body to replace the UA. The body, to be called the Student Council on Undergraduate Life, would consist of an Elected Committee of 21 which would handle SCUL's operations. A Council of Advisors consisting of 12 to 15 heads of student organizations will set the agenda of the Elected Committee. SCUL would jointly elect a chairperson and vice chairperson team. While the elected body would not have mandated public meetings, publicity would be handled by a Communications Board, which Beverly hopes will maintain a World Wide Web home page or newsletter. Beverly said the authors intended the closed meetings to create an atmosphere that was more conducive to getting work done than to publicity seeking. A Board of Governors, made up of the heads of student government bodies, would hold monthly public meetings. The annual budget allocations would be handled by an Allocations Committee with representatives from each of the branches of student government and the junior class board. No group would be allowed to vote on its own budget. The class boards and the New Student Orientation Committee would be conferred the status of affiliated organizations and would receive their funding from the Allocations Board. The much-disputed University Council student seats would be divided between the two bodies of SCUL, with five seats going to the Council of Advisors and the remaining 10 to the Elected Committee. The Committee may allocate up to five of its seats to members of the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education. Beverly said he hoped the plan would add to the legitimacy of student government by garnering the support and involvement of a variety of groups. And he said he felt the plan will attract productive students to run. "SCUL is a lot less public than the UA, and in order to advance, you have to convince a Council of Advisors who will probably know what they are dealing with," Beverly said. Hsu explained that the other two plans will be voted on at a later date -- possibly April 15-16 -- if the authors get the requisite number of signatures. The second constitutional referendum was submitted last night by College senior Eric Tienou, a former UA member. It calls for the UA to be replaced by a student body president and vice president. While the president will be the representative voice on affairs of undergraduates, the vice president will aid in representation and coordinate efforts with other branches of student government. UC seats would go to the president, the vice president, the four class presidents and the SAC chairperson. The rest would be assigned by popular election. The last proposal, submitted by College sophomore Larry Kamin, calls for the reopening of the 1996-97 UA Budget to allow SAC funds to be divided up by student vote.
Thirty-four students will vie for the 24 spots on next year's Undergraduate Assembly, according to the Wharton senior Ning Chi Hsu, Nominations and Elections Committee chairperson. The number of candidates has decreased from last year's election, which saw 40 candidates vie for 25 spots, although the numbers have are higher than the 1994 figure of 29 candidates. Of the 33 current members of the UA, fewer than half will be seeking re-election in this spring's election. Fifteen members gave in their petitions to run for the UA, according to Hsu. This number is an improvement over last year, when only 12 incumbent UA members ran for re-election. Five members will be graduating from the University this spring. Two others, Wharton sophomores Alan Danzig and Charley Margosian, are unable to run because of plans to spend a semester abroad. Other students will be leaving the UA due to academic responsibilities. Current UA Secretary Lisa Aspinwall said she would not be running due to a heavy workload as a Nursing senior. Wharton sophomore Hester Wong cited similar reasons for her decision not to seek re-election. "I will not be running in order to focus more time on my major," Wong said. "The UA has done a really good job this year. The only thing that discouraged me was that I did not have a specific goal to accomplish." UA Chairperson and College senior Lance Rogers said he was pleased with the number of current members running for re-election. "I think it says a lot about this year's UA in terms of dedication, accomplishments and interest," he said. Competing for four spots in the School of Engineering and Applied Science will be freshmen Michael Bressler and Chris Hyzer, a current UA member, and sophomores, incumbents Matthew Brletich and Roman Krislav and a new candidate, John Seitz. In Wharton, freshmen Angela Hsu and Peter Wright, sophomore Jed Prevor, junior incumbent Tom Foldesi and current Vice Chairperson and senior Gil Beverly will compete for four seats on the UA. Vying for the 15 seats in the College of Arts and Sciences will be freshmen incumbents Samara Barend, Noah Bilenker and Mark Sagat and new freshmen candidates Hillary Aisenstein, David Futer, Jeremy Katz, Edith Liu, Spencer Sloan and Olivia Troye. College sophomores running for UA include incumbents Tal Golomb, Meredith Hertz, Larry Kamin, Wendy Mongillo, Josh Rockoff and Steve Schorr, the current UA Treasurer, and new candidates Jess McGrath, Julie Minder, Michael Steib, Sean Steinmarc and Evan Witt. Junior Josh Villari will also be running for one of the College seats. Nursing sophomore Rebecca Pisano will run unopposed for the one Nursing seat. There will also be nine seats left open for incoming freshmen, one more than this year, when the body's 33rd seat went to Wharton. Bids for re-election were due to the NEC office yesterday. In order to be placed on the ballot, candidates had to obtain signatures from four percent of the full-time students in their school eligible to vote. Seniors are not considered eligible to vote. Candidates also must turn in a statement from the Office of the University Registrar testifying that they are full-time students in good standing.
$918,000 divided among branches The Undergraduate Assembly completed its budget allocation meeting Sunday night in record-breaking time, distributing $918,000 to the six branches of student government in fewer than three hours. Previous meetings have lasted up to nine hours. The final budget allocated nearly $26,000 to the UA itself, $16,884 to the Nominations and Elections Committee and $22,200 to the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education. Last year, $14,742 was allocated to the NEC, $15,175 was given to SCUE and $25,834 left for the UA. After making allocations to the Social Planning and Events Committee and the four class boards, the UA allocated $420,180 -- the remainder of the budget -- to the Student Activities Council, in accordance with student government bylaws. Last year, SAC received $535,572. The substantial decrease can be attributed to the transferrence of Connaissance from SAC to SPEC. The two subcommittees of the Social Planning and Events Committee, SPECTRUM and the Penn Student Art Gallery, successfully appealed the decision of the UA Budget Committee and received additional funds. Connaissance, which was recently transferred to SPEC jurisdiction, was denied its request for additional funding for contingency money, which is intended for unexpected expenses. Although all SPEC groups receive 20 percent contingency, the UA voted to refuse Connaissance -- a group which brings speakers to campus -- this additional funding. UA Treasurer and College sophomore Steve Schorr explained at the meeting that Connaissance's grant already exceeded last year's allocation, adding that granting contingency funding would cut into the grant given to the Student Activities Council. But Connaissance representatives argued at the meeting that additional contingency funding would actually have benefited SAC groups, since Connaissance co-sponsors many events with SAC groups. Connaissance also claimed the contingency is necessary because accurately predicting the costs of speakers is impossible. But Schorr maintained that the UA only had $112,000 available for speakers, and that Connaissance would have to keep its costs below that figure. The final SPEC budget after the appeals was $377,565. Last year, SPEC was allocated $232,440. The incoming freshman class board received $5,465, the sophomores $12,625, the juniors $11,950 and the seniors $21,204. The four class boards requested that, in the future, the system for budget requests be changed to allow each grade to request funds on its own behalf. Currently, each grade requests funding for the incoming year, so that the current junior class board is ultimately determining the budget for next year's junior class board. Schorr attributed the meeting's efficiency to an early completion of the request process. For the first time in years, the budgets were distributed to the UA by the constitutionally mandated date of February 1, rather than at the meeting itself. This allowed members and other government bodies to review the figures before the meeting, Schorr explained. The UA Budget Committee announced in September that it would deduct funds from all late budget requests equaling one percent for each day over deadline. Next year's sophomore budget was cut by $257 to reflect the fact that the current freshman class board handed in its budget request two days late.
Chodorow also proposes several other changes Provost Stanley Chodorow will issue a new judicial charter draft tomorrow, College sophomore Tal Golomb announced at last night's Undergraduate Assembly meeting. The new proposal will incorporate several of the changes suggested by the Undergraduate Assembly and the First Amendment Task Force. Under the new charter, hearings would be open to the public if the respondent and complainant agree, Golomb said. Previous drafts had required University approval as a condition for open hearings. The so-called "gag" rule has also been eliminated. Respondents are allowed to discuss judicial hearing proceedings publicly, as per the current charter. If the respondent slanders anyone through public discussion of the hearings, the victim may address the slander "in an appropriate form." The charter has also been changed to state that the provost must impose the sanction suggested by the hearing panel or Disciplinary Hearing Officer. This change was made in response to student fears that the first charter would give the provost the power to reject the committee's recommendation in favor of his own sanction. The last change to the proposed charter loosens the restrictions placed on the role of the respondent's faculty advisor in the proceedings. The charter formerly read, "at the discretion of the Disciplinary Hearing Officer, in extraordinary cases, the respondent's advisor may be permitted to question witnesses on behalf of the respondent or to address the Hearing Panel." The new draft deletes the words "in extraordinary circumstances." Although several of the UA's complaints about the charter have been addressed in the new draft, Golomb said the body would continue pursuing changes other areas of the charter. He added that the UA is still not satisfied with the level of participation of the faculty advisor in the hearings. And the Office of Student Conduct is still given the right to appeal the decision and request a stiffer sanction. The amendment procedure of the charter also remains an issue. The draft allows for amendments to be made only by the deans of the four undergraduate schools. UA Chairperson Lance Rogers, a College senior, explained that the body is dissatisfied with this because the provost appoints the deans, and this could be a conflict of interest. "I feel that the faculty should play a role in this process," he said. "Including the faculty would provide for a fair judicial charter." Golomb also explained that the current changes are a significant compromise on Chodorow's part. Rogers said he believed the changes had a lot to do with UA involvement in the issue. "I think the UA played an extraordinary role in this process, and I am very proud of their efforts," he said. "We were able to get hundreds of students involved and hopefully make a difference." Rogers added that he hopes the body realizes that the fight for a fair judicial charter is not over yet. Golomb said that while the new changes are significant, the fact that the administration made them at all was more important. He ascribed Chodorow's willingness to cooperate to student participation in conjunction with UA efforts.
New constitution takes effect The Student Activities Council elected eight members to serve on its new Executive Committee last night, formally implementing the SAC constitution passed at the last meeting. College senior Jorge Leon, College junior Allison O'Brien, College sophomores Adena Galinsky, Nhung Tran and Kevin Canete, College freshman Debby Posner, Nursing sophomore Mark Corcoran and Engineering junior Paul Wilder were all elected to the committee. The ninth committee member will be Undergraduate Assembly Treasurer and College sophomore Steve Schorr, as per UA and SAC constitution rules. As a result of the newly accepted constitution, the organization is no longer divided into SAC Finance and SAC Steering branches. Instead, it will be led by the new executive committee. The newly elected committee members said they are eager to help change SAC through implementation of the new constitution. "Now is the chance to iron out the problems," O'Brien said. "This is going to become a more personal system." Tran said she agreed. "SAC has become too much of a personal insult against each other," she said. "That is not what SAC is about." And Posner said she was impressed by the resources students have through student groups. "I'd like to be a part of the board that is energizing those groups," she said. But the enthusiasm of the meeting was marred by dissent over the outgoing Finance Committee's funding recommendations, making an otherwise smooth transition controversial. Although Finance was advised that SAC had $35,000 in contingency funds, the Committee approached the body with recommendations totaling $120,000. Allocating that amount would have required dipping into the $245,000 fund of unspent SAC allocations which was discovered this fall. Outgoing Chairperson Graham Robinson, a College senior, explained that the newly passed constitution suggested spending this money gradually to fund special projects that would benefit many students and which SAC could not normally afford. Even if the money should be pooled among the different groups, the recommendations did not divide the extra money fairly, Robinson said. "These allocations are to 49 groups," he added. "If we are going to open up SAC funds to just divide among groups, then at least all groups should have a chance to come and request funds, which they did not. "I don't think these are a good set of recommendations," Robinson added. He explained that certain groups received phone calls telling them to make financial requests at last night's meeting because this would be a month in which money was available. Robinson claimed some of these groups called to ask him if "something fishy was going on." Schorr also said he received similar phone calls from groups asking why the Finance Committee told them to ask for money. Several SAC members at the meeting said they thought the phone calls were Finance's last jab at the Steering Committee it had often fought with. As a result of the confusion, the body voted to hold over all requests until its next meeting. Robinson said he was sorry about the hold, because it might hurt groups who actually need the money. But he said the important funds were mixed in with "frivolous requests."
A new proposal to reform the Undergraduate Assembly was distributed last night at the monthly meeting of the Student Activities Council. According to its four authors, the proposal combines the most successful procedures from SAC, the Social Planning and Events Committee, the Nominations and Elections Committee and the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education to reform the UA. The new body, called the Student Council on Undergraduate Life, would be smaller than the current UA and elected from smaller constituencies. The Council's agenda would be subject to recommendations by campus leaders from groups such as the United Minorities Council, the Greek umbrella groups and Student Health Advisory Board. The plan would also enable the body to remove ineffective members. Former SAC chairperson and College senior Graham Robinson, UA Vice Chairperson Gil Beverly, SPEC President and College junior Mosi Bennett and former NEC chairperson and recent College graduate Rick Gresh put forth the proposal. The reform plan also calls for work meetings, which would be closed to the public. Parliamentary procedure would be relaxed at these meetings. The reform also recommends the development of procedures allowing body members to gain spots on key University committees and to develop focused areas of responsibility. Another recommendation would allow campus leaders and SCUE members to hold University Council seats. The proposal claims to build on the strengths of the current structure in order to begin cutting down its weaknesses, according to a flier handed out at the SAC meeting. Beverly, a Wharton senior, said the plan attempts to eliminate some of the things holding back the current UA. "This will be a smaller, leaner, meaner group," Beverly said. "It will also increase input and give the government a stronger voice in terms of representation. "The government can go to the administration and say 'Look, we are supported by these 15 or so student group,' " he added. Beverly explained that the authors hoped the changes would create more stable groups, adding that leaders would have to prove themselves before they were elected. The reform plan is the second proposed for the March 26-27 UA elections. The first, a tentative outline to abolish the current UA structure originally proposed by College seniors Mike Nadel and Eric Tienou, has yet to be formalized. Tienou has since said he will not be proposing a plan for the coming election.
Lower voter turnout is not limited to Penn Students have recently chosen to demonstrate their displeasure with the Undergraduate Assembly in a variety of ways -- from low voter turnout in last spring's election to suggesting a slew of reform plans both last spring and this semester. Last year's elections saw only a 16 percent voter turnout. A 20 percent turnout was required to pass any of the three proposals to change to the UA's constitution. And in a recent survey by The Daily Pennsylvanian, 78 percent of the students polled said that the UA did not accurately represent their opinions. But Penn is not the only school with student government problems. Students at Northwestern University proposed a referendum last year that would have abolished student government altogether. The proposal was defeated, although voter participation in the election was low, according to Rebecca Winters, the student government reporter at The Daily Northwestern. At Temple University, student government has been plagued with apathy and racial controversy, said Catherine Ginther, editor-in-chief of The Temple Star. Last year's election at Temple saw a voter turnout of less than five percent, according to Ginther. And a violation of election procedure caused the hundreds of ballots from Temple's Center City campus to be discounted. As a result the winning slate of officers lost their majority and another slate was declared victorious. Since one slate contained all white candidates, while the other featured an entirely black slate, the controversy took on an ugly racial tone, Ginther said. The election produced a student government that many believe lacks student support. Yale University, a school that features a slightly different electoral system than the popularly elected systems of Penn and Temple, enjoys a greater voter turnout. Last year's elections yielded a 50 percent voter turnout. The Yale system allows for the election of two representatives from each of 11 college house residences, in addition to popularly elected executives. Since students stay in the same college house for all four years, this increases chances that students know their candidates personally. Harvard University also has a system of voting based on residence but has not met quite the same success as Yale. Only 25 percent of upperclassmen voted in last year's elections, said Peggy Chen, who covers student government for The Harvard Crimson. And there is a problem with frequent resignations, which spurred a reform movement last year. But 70 percent of freshman voted, largely due to the start of a new system of electronic voting among the freshman, according to Chen.
Space, comfort and cost among criticisms Undergraduates are dissatisfied with Residential Living, according to a recent poll conducted by the Undergraduate Assembly. The poll, taken by the UA's Residential Living Committee, surveyed 414 students over the past month. Of the students polled, 63 percent lived on campus. But only 34 percent of these students indicated that they would definitely continue to live on campus next year. And the on-campus students expressed disappointment in their accommodations, particularly in the area of dorm maintenance. The average student ranked residential maintenance 2.9 on a scale of 1 to 5. Safety, friends and convenience were ranked the top reasons why student had chosen to live on campus. But space, comfort and cost were the most popular reason for moving off campus, the survey showed. Greek involvement and dissatisfaction with on-campus accommodations were also given as common reasons for living off campus by the 152 off-campus students polled. The survey indicated that most students had chosen their residence based on its location and where their friends were living. Students listed a variety of problems that need attention in order to make on-campus living more attractive. Forty percent of those polled said on-campus living could be improved by lowering costs, while eight percent said that maintenance needed improvement. "I think my dorm is neglected by maintenance at times," a W.E.B. DuBois College House resident said. Other students complained about slow maintenance response to requests for repairs. Twelve percent of students said the problem with on-campus living was the size and quality of rooms. The same number cited poor cleaning of dorms as a problem. But several students polled said there is no way to improve on-campus living, because off-campus residences will always remain a better and cheaper option. UA member and College sophomore Josh Rockoff reminded the body that within the next few months, as Residential Living and Residential Maintenance merge, the situation in campus residences should change. Rockoff, who is also a member of the Residential Advisory Board, announced that RAB is testing a new on-line complaint registration system that will be operational next week. UA Residential Living Committee Chairperson Christian Hensley met with Residential Living Director Gigi Simeone yesterday. Hensley said the meeting and the survey had accomplished a lot, and that Simeone was both appreciative and communicative. "The survey is a staging point," the College senior said. "We were able to quantify the areas of Residential Living that we always concerned about and we were able to determine that maintenance was one of the major issues we face. "Now we can assess sources of difficulty and address them one by one," he added.
In a post to the upenn.talk newsgroup, Provost Stanley Chodorow called for rapid action regarding the Communications Decency Act of the recent telecommunications reform law. "Penn believes the constitutional challenges [to the CDA] are important and should be resolved quickly because we believe the Act may chill the free exchange of ideas and information that is central to the University's mission," Chodorow wrote. Civil liberties groups challenged the constitutionality of some provisions of the CDA immediately after it was signed into law three weeks ago and filed lawsuits in federal court to block their enforcement. Chodorow's post went on to add that the University opposes the CDA since it may also restrict development of new forms of electronic communication. It also explained the implications of the law, stating that the provision prohibiting transmission of "obscene or indecent" communication to anyone known to be under 18 was deemed unconstitutional by a federal court in Philadelphia last week. But the CDA's other provisions -- including one barring depiction or descriptions of sexual activities -- are still in place. In light of the law, Chodorow warned members of the University community to exercise caution in deciding what to put on their World Wide Web home pages. The provost said the University cannot prevent information on newsgroups and home pages from becoming available to minors, and thereby possibly coming under federal scrutiny. Chodorow explained that the University will not be responsible for individuals who utilize its computing resources. Director of Information Technology Architecture Noam Arzt posted the message on Chodorow's behalf. Engineering senior Michael Mirmak -- who helped organized last week's student protest of the CDA -- said he was pleased with Chodorow's response. "I think as a University administrator, he has a responsibility to warn people," Mirmak said. "It is excellent that the provost is presenting the University community with the fact that this will affect them." Mirmak was also pleased that the University came out against the law, but he questioned what the shape of future policy on student free speech on the Internet will be. He also wondered why the post came at the time it did. "The timing is curious," he said. "It does come after Gore's arrival, but the University was probably poring over the law and the resulting lawsuits to see how they will be affected by it." Mirmak also commended Chodorow's release of the information by newsgroup, saying that it made sense to inform the people most affected by the law first. But not all cheered the provost's response. Some newsgroup replies questioned the practical meaning of his statements for PennNet users, while others tested the new law, using some "indecent" adjectives to describe Chodorow.
Passes resolution requesting officials reveal budget The Undergraduate Assembly unanimously passed a motion last night requesting that the University Treasurer and Budget Office allow the body to examine the budget allocating student General Fee revenue. The resolution was co-sponsored by the Graduate and Professional Student Association, which unanimously passed the same resolution last week. The General Fee is paid as part of tuition by all Penn students. The revenues from the fee are intended to finance essential facilities and services. For undergraduates, the fee is $1,674 a year. Graduate students pay $1,278 and professional students pay $1,008. The two student government bodies want to examine the budget in order to clear up several major discrepancies in reports of General Fee revenue allocations, according to UA Treasurer and College sophomore Steve Schorr. The Budget Office and the University Treasurer's office both have complete records of allocations made from the approximately $25 million accrued from the General Fee. But according to Schorr, the two offices' records do not match. They even disagree on the exact revenue from the fee, with the Budget Office recording $24.5 million, while the Treasurer's assessment tips the scales at $25 million. The bulk of the fee goes to the Office of the Vice Provost for University Life. But while the Budget Office claims to give VPUL $17.8 million, the Treasurer and VPUL Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum, said VPUL only receives $13.5 million. Schorr said he also found discrepancies in athletic funding, with the Budget Office claiming $2 million and the Treasurer stating $3.2 million. The Budget Office also listed $2 million for ResNet and $2.4 for one-time expenses. But the Treasurer's Office allocated only $1.3 million for ResNet and nothing for one-time expenses. In addition, between the 9,000 undergraduates and 13,000 graduate and professional students, General Fee revenues should amount to more than $30 million. While the Budget Office and the Treasurer's Office would give Schorr a brief listing of their expenditures, both offices refused to allow him to see a copy of the budget, prompting the UA and GAPSA to co-sponsor the resolution. Schorr explained that the UA hopes to represent the students interest by passing this resolution. "The main reason we are doing this is because undergraduates are constantly being told that there is not enough money to support what they want," he said. "They deserve to see how well the money they pay is spent. "There is a lot of misinformation being distributed, therefore it is important that we see the budget," he added.
Of the 100 randomly selected students polled by The Daily Pennsylvanian this week, 19 percent could not define the function of the Undergraduate Assembly. The survey follows two weeks of UA outreach programs as suggested in the body's blueprint for communications, developed this fall. Almost half the students did not know how to get in touch with the UA. And results showed that 47 percent of students polled could not name any members of the UA. In addition, only 25 percent could identify UA Chairperson Lance Rogers, a College senior. But these numbers do show improvement over those seen in last month's DP poll which showed that 59 percent could not identify any UA members and 12.5 percent recognized Rogers. The January poll also indicated that very few students knew how to get in touch with the UA, with less than a quarter aware of the UA's office hours and World Wide Web site. It is unclear if the increases are due to the UA's recent publicity campaign, since 78 percent of students polled said they had not received a UA information folder during the campus-wide door-to-door campaign of the past two weeks. And 78 percent also said they did not feel the UA accurately represented their opinions and interests, although only 38 percent said they would be interested in seeing student government reforms. But Rogers said last night that he felt the results of the survey were positive and showed that the outreach program has worked. But 99 percent of students polled have not yet contacted the UA to discuss an issue. The survey indicated that students would prefer to contact a specific UA member rather than contacting the body as a whole. And 72 percent said they would seek out an individual member by phone or electronic mail, while only 44 percent said they would attend open floor time during UA meetings, attend UA office hours or visit the UA Web site. But most said another form of student government would not offer a better option. Since last month's first DP poll, the UA has undertaken a massive outreach program, which followed the goals outlined in the UA blueprint for communication developed last fall. The program included a campus-wide door-to-door campaign to hand out information, as well as appearances on Locust Walk and the establishment of a new phone hotline. "The numbers [in the poll] indicate that we are moving in the right direction," Rogers said. "We certainly got the results and we have people calling us about problem they are facing." And Rogers was not alarmed by indications that students are unhappy with the way the UA represents them. Rogers added that he believes student awareness of the UA has actually increased over the past few years. Daily Pennsylvanian staff writers Shannon Burke and Suzanne Albers contributed to this story.
Several sources holding high positions in student government have revealed that College seniors Mike Nadel and Eric Tienou plan to propose a reform of the Undergraduate Assembly constitution. Tienou is a former member of the UA. The plan would abolish the 33-member UA in favor of a single student government president who would oversee the whole government process, according to sources. The other branches of student government which are now included in the UA budget would be funded by the Student Activities Council. And the Social Planning and Events Committee would have a separate budget, which would be a fixed percentage of the student activities fee. The plan also calls for student seats on the University Council to be elected directly and to meet monthly with the student government president, sources said. The proposal would appear on the spring UA ballot and would require that 20 percent of the student body vote in order to be considered binding, if passed by a majority of those who vote. The plan for the referendum was confirmed by Nadel and Tienou last night, although the pair maintain the proposal is still in the planning stages. Despite its early stage, it has already elicited strong reaction. UA Chairperson and College senior Lance Rogers questioned how the plan, which he dubbed the "dictator plan," would benefit the University. "I think the proposal is absurd and out of the question," Rogers said. There's no way one person can perform the functions of the UA." Rogers was also concerned about the amount of power the plan confers to one person. "There are no checks and balances on this person's interests or desires," he said. "There would be a lack of ideas." And UA Treasurer Steve Schorr, a College sophomore, also expressed disapproval of the plan. "It certainly would be difficult to get a lot of leg work done," he said. There would still be a UA -- it would just be the Undergraduate Autocrat." Nadel and Tienou said they believe the UA body is not necessary to fulfill the University's student government needs. "You find in the UA that the top people try to get the other people organized and there is so much energy and time spent on organizing that nothing gets accomplished," Nadel said. Rogers said these activities are a means of instilling the UA teamwork necessary for student government. Nadel and Tienou also said they believe individuals who are interested in issues will act regardless of whether they are on the UA, adding that few UA members actually use their offices to act on issues. But Rogers disagreed vehemently, explaining that the UA is "a mechanism by which concerned students can accomplish something to improve our university."
Many black outMany black outWWW pages In the wake of the recently passed federal telecommunications reform law, which could heavily restrict freedom of expression over the Internet, students across campus have begun to launch protest. Several have blacked out their own homepages, or placed blue ribbon graphics on their homepages in honor of free speech. Data Communications and Computing Services Executive Director Dan Updegrove said he is concerned that the law would affect PennNet sites such as Rape Counseling and Health Services, as well as some on-line literary analysis. The bill, which President Clinton signed into law last Wednesday, outlaws indecent material that could be viewed by a minor over a computer network. Transmitting or providing such material could be punishable by $250,000 in fines and two years in prison. The signing was followed by 21 lawsuits on Thursday morning challenging the constitutionality of the law. The most notable of these was a suit by the American Civil Liberties Union. Nationwide, World Wide Web sites, such as Yahoo, an Internet directory service and Netscape, a widely used Web browser, responded by changing the backgrounds of their sites to black. Yahoo also called for all sites to follow their lead in declaring "black Thursday." Sites remained blacked out for 48 hours in protest. The new law could have severe ramifications at the University. Updegrove said the problem stems from the fact that since some freshmen are under the age of 18, violation of the regulation could lead to lawsuits against the University. But Updegrove maintained that the effects will depend on the courts' interpretation of the law. "In a university this committed to free speech, obviously it will intersect with a narrow definition of the bill," he said. "It is fair to say that all universities are tracking the progress of this bill and the lawsuits with great care." The new law has already affected several of the most popular homepages at the University, several of which used to include pornography. Eric Meyer, who maintains the second most popular home page on the University system, said he removed the extensive pornography on his page last week. In its place, Meyer provided a short statement. "Due to the increasing pressure in the federal government to regulate the Internet vis-a-vis the Exon addendum to the telecommunications bill, I am hereby removing all explicit material from my homepage until something firm and legal has been resolved," it read. "I apologize to everyone in the Internet community who has travelled through my page and enjoyed it. I wish I could have kept this material, but I have no intentions of going to jail." But the law could also affect non-pornographic sites on PennNet, according to Updegrove. For example, Updegrove said he fears that sites such as the University's OncoLink, which contains information on cancers of the breast, cervix and prostate, may become illegal under the new law. And some classes in literature, psychology and biology, which keep their syllabi or readings on the Web may also be affected. Computer users are currently awaiting the U.S. district court decision on the ACLU's suit to gain a temporary injunction to block the law. After last week's one-hour hearing, the court decided to allow the U.S. government until next Wednesday to prepare and file its arguments. Wednesday will also mark the 50th anniversary of Penn's unveiling of ENIAC, the world's first computer.
Groups receiving University funding from the Student Activities Council have been displeased with the aid they have received through the Office of Student Life. The general consensus among SAC-funded organizations is that Lynn Moller, financial administrator for Student Activities, is overloaded with work -- causing budgeting and advising delays and inadequate monitoring of group spending. Moller and her part-time assistant Sharon Klingsberg are responsible for advising approximately 130 SAC groups. Undergraduate Assembly Treasurer and College sophomore Steve Schorr said Moller's workload prevents her from efficiently overseeing the spending of SAC funds. "It would be physically impossible for Lynn to check everything that comes through," said Schorr. "It would be possible if she had more help." SAC groups have also complained about the backlog in Moller's office, at the same time asserting that Moller is working overtime and doing her best. "She's definitely overworked," Kite and Key Treasurer and College junior Allison O'Brien said. "She has been wonderful to our group, but she definitely needs help." And Senior Class President Lenny Chang, a Wharton senior, agreed. "She does have a backlog, and we are all very aware of it," Chang said. "She is only one person. Under the circumstances she's done the best she could for us." Moller corroborated these claims of backlog, explaining that Human Resources did a study of her office a few years back and reported that she needed a full-time assistant. Moller said she is under pressure since there are so many SAC groups, and while students want certain services, her superiors often desire different results. But Moller said there are problems with hiring new assistants. "The work is really seasonal and it's hard to hire someone for that," she said. Director of Student Life, Activities and Facilities Fran Walker said it would be premature to hire new staff. According to Walker, Executive Vice President John Fry is conducting an internal review of the financial and administrative divisions of University Life. "Since that is in progress, I don't know what recommendations they will make or if those recommendations will be feasible in a University that is downsizing," she said. "It is possible that there will be shifts in responsibilities in the Office of Student Life as a result of the review," she added. Walker did admit that it is difficult for the current staff to handle the volume of paperwork. She also said she hopes new computerized methods of financial management will lessen Moller's load. This system will allow requisitions and other paperwork to be carried out electronically. But not all SAC members agree that additional employees would be beneficial. Steering Chairperson and College senior Graham Robinson said he is not sure the benefits outweigh the costs. "Hiring 'another Lynn' would fix a lot of problems, though it would cost a lot of money," Robinson said. "It would have to create an efficiency in SAC that would equal the cost, which I don't feel it will." Robinson added that helping SAC groups with their budgets and preventing funding misuse is not really the job Moller was hired to do. "Moller was hired to make sure that SAC, in using University money, does not violate University regulations," he explained. "She also watches to make sure someone isn't stealing funds directly." The rest Moller does, according to Robinson, because "she is a nice person," and the University has not hired someone else to do it because she has taken on the extra responsibility. Robinson said he feels any misuse of funds stems from a lack of respect for SAC and that the solution is to rebuild SAC and not to hire someone else to police budgets. He added that the backlog has only been found in cases where the information or help was not needed immediately. Robinson suggested that the problem might be remedied by hiring a couple of work-study students to help Moller.
The Undergraduate Assembly kicked off its Door-to-Door Campaign last week, eliciting a mixed reaction from the student body. The campaign was part of the UA's blueprint for communications, a comprehensive plan intended to increase interaction of the representatives with the rest of the student body. The Door-to-Door program, which began last Tuesday, calls for all members of the UA to visit students in their residences. Assembly members have several thousand folders to distribute in dormitories. Each contains a description of the UA and how to reach individual members of the body. Students living off-campus are being targeted through phone hotlines. And folders are also being handed out at Greek houses and Hamilton Court. But despite UA members' excitement about the effort, student reaction to the campaign has been mixed. Out of approximately 60 students polled by Daily Pennsylvanian reporters, most had not yet received the folders. The students lived in a wide assortment of dorms. And those who did receive folders claim they have not had the time or interest to look at them. Wharton freshman Michael Irizarry summed up the feelings of several students polled. "I wasn't really too interested, but I guess it was a nice gesture that they asked if we had any complaints," he said. But UA Chairperson and College senior Lance Rogers is optimistic about the initiative's success, explaining that many UA members have already received inquiries from students who saw their names on the UA contact sheet in the folders. At Sunday's UA meeting, Rogers instructed the UA to forward all future comments or complaints to a member of the body's Steering Committee. UA representative Courtney Fine, a College freshman, said she had encountered some interested students during her door-to-door campaigning. "I went around to several people who were called by the DP and said they did not know anything about the UA and they did not know who to contact to learn more," she said. UA member and Wharton junior Tom Foldesi, who helped develop the campaign, said he feels it is too early to comment on its success. "It is premature to judge the result of this effort," Foldesi said. "There have also been positive effects and responses." And Rogers was not concerned about a lack of student awareness. "Obviously we have some work ahead of us," he said. "This is the first week. I think the result we have gotten so far are encouraging." Rogers added that he hopes that current responses are an indication of a rising trend of student involvement in the UA.
Undergraduate Assembly Vice Chairperson Gil Beverly announced last night that Social Planning and Events Committee President and College senior Nelson Telemaco has resigned from his post. Telemaco stepped down in order to begin an internship at Lord & Taylor, said Beverly, a Wharton senior. Telemaco was unavailable for comment last night. As SPEC president, Telemaco oversaw several SPEC project during the past year, including "Conversations," a student-leader social, the "Share Your Space" student art exhibit and the "Breaking Down the Walls" party to fight racism. Telemaco's decision to step down was announced to the group at a recent SPEC weekend retreat. Beverly, who has been a member of SPEC since his freshman year and now directs Spring Fling, said Telemaco was one of the best SPEC presidents with whom he had worked. "It is too bad that he had to resign," Beverly said. "He was a great president. He has been working for SPEC for three and a half years, and we are losing a great asset." Beverly added that Telemaco was disappointed he would be was unable to maintain the position. Telemaco will be replaced by Mosi Bennett, former vice president of SPEC. Bennett, a College junior, has also served as a UA representative, UA secretary and UA liaison to SPEC. Bennett said SPEC will continue to run smoothly despite Telemaco's sudden resignation. "It was something we were not expecting," he said. "We are handling the transition smoothly. We are working hard to make sure we continue the work Nelson did last semester and the overall improvement of SPEC." Bennett added that the next few months will be a hectic time for SPEC, with Spring Fling around the corner. "We would like to improve attendance of SPEC events, while promoting the organization as a whole and increasing student awareness," he said.
In a decisive vote of 102 to seven, with six abstentions, the Student Activities Council passed a proposal last night drastically changing its constitution and streamlining the organization. The proposal eliminates the SAC Steering and Finance committees in favor of a nine-member Executive Committee, one of which is the Undergraduate Assembly treasurer, according to College senior and SAC Steering Chairperson Graham Robinson. The new committee will consist solely of officers in SAC-recognized groups and will combine the tasks of the current Steering and Finance committees, which include making funding recommendations and applying emergency powers. But the members will not have a vote on motions before the SAC general assembly. The constitution converts many Finance guidelines, which factor into the amount of a group's allocation, into optional suggestions. According to Robinson, this section of the proposal was intended to give the Executive Committee leeway based on extenuating circumstances. The new constitution will also encourage outside fund raising by SAC groups by allowing groups to retain these funds more easily. Also under the new constitution, Connaissance -- an organization which brings speakers to campus and which has the largest SAC budget -- will be placed under the auspices of the Social Planning and Events Committee. The only part of the proposed constitution that was not passed was a section requiring that SAC representatives be either the president of vice president of their group. Instead, the body adopted an amendment recommending such a practice but not mandating it. The proposal, which was compiled by SAC Steering last semester and presented to the the body at last month's meeting, was passed along with several other amendments. One of these additional amendments states that no member of the Executive Committee may also hold the position of SAC representative, eliminating the possibility that a member of the committee could obtain a vote as a representative. Another amendment requiring the Executive Committee to publicize its actions on behalf of the body in between SAC body meetings was also passed. The Finance Committee, which has been opposed to the reforms, formulated its own statement, consisting of a monologue by Chairperson David Shapiro, a College and Wharton junior. "I come not to bury Graham Robinson but to praise him," Shapiro explained. "I realized that this plan is an actuality a vote of confidence in the Finance Committee. It strengthens the committee under a new name -- the Executive Committee. As mandated by the new constitution, the status quo will be maintained until the February SAC meeting, when the new Executive Committee will be elected and the rest of the new constitution will take effect.
New SAC audit refutes 'DP' audit allegationsNew SAC audit refutes 'DP' audit allegationsthat the group misused $3,492 in SAC funds The Student Activities Council Finance Committee reported last night that the International Affairs Association had not misused SAC funds for the purpose of phone calls, as alleged by The Daily Pennsylvanian. SAC Finance conducted its own audit Tuesday night to assess the validity of DP allegations that the IAA had misused $3,492 in SAC funds. In December, a DP audit found that the IAA may have overspent for printing and duplicating, travel and personal phone calls made from the group's office. The DP's independent audit came in response to a previous SAC Finance audit which vindicated the IAA from allegations of fund misuse made in an Undergraduate Assembly Budgetary Committee audit of the group. Last night, SAC Finance reported that all concerns brought up by the DP had been addressed through the IAA's transfer of $1,200 to SAC last semester. The only issue not covered by this payment was the charge of telephone abuse. According to SAC Finance's report, the IAA had a final deficit of $276.04 in phone calls, which were paid out of non-SAC revenues. This sum covers the alleged $33 phone call misuse alleged by the DP. And the IAA's office expenses, which exceeded SAC grants, were also covered by non-SAC revenues, the report added. SAC Finance concluded that no SAC funds were misappropriated by the IAA. In October, an audit conducted by the UA alleged that the IAA used SAC funding inappropriately for expenses such as taxi rides, extra hotel rooms and car rentals. But SAC Finance refuted the UA findings later that month, vindicating the IAA of any fund misuse. Shapiro said the Finance Committee stands by the findings of its original audit in October, adding that no material has been found to refute its validity. But UA Treasurer and Finance Committee member Steve Schorr, a College sophomore, maintained that the UA audit was not a waste. "None of the discrepancies which the IAA paid for [in the $1,200] would have been discovered if not for the audit," Schorr said. "SAC was paying for these discrepancies before the audit," he added. The failure to fully comprehend the effects of the carryover/deficit process of funding could also have led the UA and the DP to inaccurate conclusions, according to Shapiro. This process allows SAC groups to deduct their debts from their non-SAC revenue. It also allows groups $50 leeway to transfer surpluses in one category of expenditure to a category which ran into debt. Schorr said he is happy that the audit ordeal is over. "I'm glad that the $1,200 has been transferred from the IAA back to SAC to account for all the discrepancies and that the matter has finally been put to rest," Schorr said.
Although students may not have the opportunity to vote for Undergraduate Assembly representatives electronically in this spring's elections, voting over the World Wide Web may soon be a reality at the University. The concept, which would allow students to vote by computer -- utilizing a system similar to Penn InTouch -- was presented at a December UA meeting by Nominations and Elections Committee Vice Chairperson and Engineering sophomore Ben Goldberger. Director of Student Life Activities and Facilities Fran Walker said the project is moving along nicely. "Ben and Ning [Chi Hsu, NEC chairperson and Wharton senior,] and I have met with Information Systems and Computing to see the possible costs, timeline and programming," Walker said. "It would have to be done by the staff at ISC, so it is a matter of cost and whether there is someone available to program it," she added. The NEC and ISC have been given the go-ahead to look into the possibilities, she said, adding that the University is waiting to see the final proposal and costs before giving approval. Goldberger said he believes the system will be installed, although he was unable to predict when the project will be complete. "Whether voting will be by computer for spring elections remains to be seen, but we hope the system will be in place by the fall," Goldberger said. He added that delays are possible due to the complicated nature of the program required. "We would like to create a system which could be used for Class Board and senior class award voting," he said. "Therefore, the first time we set it up it will be a lot of work -- afterwards it should be easy. We want a program that is versatile." But there are still those who doubt the security of the system. When the proposal was presented in December, UA member Josh Rockoff expressed concern, claiming that he had seen people break into PennNet and Penn InTouch many times. And Rockoff, a College sophomore, commented last week he still felt the security question has not been resolved. "The electronic system certainly makes it easier to vote, but you also can have people voting 10 or 15 times," Rockoff said. "It is a great idea. I would like to see it looked at further rather than rushed into." In the interests of security, the program will be written and installed by professionals at ISC, rather than by a student, Walker explained. ISC is currently looking into the options for the system, according to Associate Vice Provost for Information Systems and Computing Dan Updegrove.