A brief history of student governance at the Pennsylvania State University
The History of the University Park Undergraduate Association
as written by Spencer Malloy, Chair of the 7th Assembly
The University Park Undergraduate Association was founded in 2006 in concert with the dissolution of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG). The USG was originally formed in 1961, following a series of evolving student government initiatives that can trace their history back to student tribunals in the 1860’s. Other organs of shared governance, including the All-College Cabinet that featured representatives from different organizations on campus, held sway through the 20th Century.
Controversy still remains regarding the administrative tactics to develop the organization — the ability of the USG to operate as a legitimate body (including registering and approving student groups and utilizing an independent judicial branch to arbitrate conduct violations) was stripped from the organization following the hiring of former Vice President Vicky Triponey. After a student referendum, the University administration formally recognized the UPUA — and we’ve been working ever since to provide students representation at the highest levels of administration and build programs to benefit of undergraduates at University Park.
Inception and Development
After the disqualification of highest-vote-getting candidate Jay Bundy, Jay Chamberlin took office in first Assembly of the UPUA. While reeling from the first voting controversy and demise of the USG, it was not until the 2nd and 3rd Assemblies that the organization was able to refine and develop the UPUA constitution to a workable model. Second President Hillary Lewis would oversee further refinement of the Association and faced numerous challenges with such a limited budget:
Yet the Association continued to grow, developed additional standing committees and the Chair of the Assembly position and Steering committee.
Keirans/Russell and Keirans/Gupta, 3rd and 4th Assemblies
The organization grew at a remarkable pace during the two terms of Gavin Keirans and his Vice Presidents Vallery Russell and Hillary Gupta. Matt Smith, Chief of Staff in the 5th Assembly, made the organization’s philosophy on expansion clear:
“If we can make changes that normally you’d only see faculty or administrators make, that’s when you’ll see people go to us as an authority on changing the University,” Smith said.
In these two administrations, a number of projects were completed, including funding for an expansion of the late night White Loop, the formation and selection of the Legal Affairs Department, a standard budget and office, programs for Landlord-Tenant mediation, the return of student leader Encampment, and a music festival called Last Stop (which would eventually fuse with the ARHS initiative Movin’ On).
Samantha Miller, then director of the Assembly services, noted that even with its growth, the preservation of the Association was a delicate process:
“Representatives need to remember this isn’t a given title or a given set of privileges Everything has to be earned. Our work is to serve the students, and the second that people think they’re above doing that is the minute the UPUA will stop growing.”
Ragland-Smith 5th Assembly
Christian Ragland and Colleen Smith were the President and Vice President respectfully, of the 5th Assembly of the UPUA. Both Christian and Colleen previously served as Committee chairs during the 4th Assembly which ultimately influenced their decision to run together. Christian served as the Student Life and Diversity Chairman and Colleen served as the the Governmental Affairs Chairwoman. During their term, there was considerable strife between the Executive Board and the Assembly given the nature of the working relationships between the two branches. Having both served in the Assembly as Chairs, Ragland-Smith saw the opportunity to assist each committee in executing its initiatives through the appointment of Directors of each committee.
Throughout their term, Ragland-Smith were able to secure a non-voting Student Representative seat on the State College Borough Council for the UPUA. This was a huge win for the organization given that the Borough of State College is 75% students. Other notable accomplishments of the 5th Assembly included the course watch list and student book exchange website which are still in use today.
Bard-Lennartz 6th Assembly
TJ Bard and Courtney Lennartz were President and Vice President of the 6th Assembly of the UPUA. The election for President and Vice President was the most competitive in UPUA’s history with 4 different tickets running for the Executive office. During their term, news broke of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and news vans flooded State College. President Bard rose to the occasion and spoke in nearly 600 interviews with the media during a time when the University cut off all communication with the public. As a result of the fallout, the Six Points for Change were developed in order to open communication lines between the three student governments of Penn State and the administration.
Their administration’s progress was hindered by the firing of President Graham Spanier, Athletic Director Tim Curley, and former head football coach Joe Paterno and as a result received some criticism form the Daily Collegian about incomplete platform initiatives that existed at the end of their term. However, several important initiatives were accomplished by the 6th Assembly of the UPUA including the Princeton Review subsidized test preparation classes and the i-Clicker+ rental program.
Lennartz-Mullen 7th Assembly
Courtney Lennartz and Katelyn Mullen were the President and Vice President of the 7th Assembly of the UPUA. During their time in office, the University began rebuilding its image and learning from the mistakes that allowed for the scandal to occur. With the release of the Freeh report, the Governor’s decision to sue the NCAA, and the searches for the new Executive Vice President and President of Penn State, Lennartz and Mullen were heavily involved in instituting change and guiding the University into the future. Lennartz-Mullen was also able to secure the University wide listserv access for the UPUA so that the organization can communicate with the student body as needed. Other notable accomplishments of the 7th Assembly include the CATA bus tokens and the expansion of Sexual Violence Awareness Week.