As a result of its "inherently undemocratic" constitution and a "gradual stripping of power," other Big Ten schools have once again refused to recognize the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) as the official student government of Penn State.
In the past, the Association of Big Ten Students (ABTS), an organization comprising representatives from other Big Ten student governments, has rejected UPUA, repeatedly citing the need for an amended constitution.
Last spring, UPUA attempted to modify its existing constitution. Although it was passed unanimously by student members of UPUA, it was never adopted after an assessment by a five-member external constitutional review board.
The ABTS again refused to give UPUA voting status during its three-day August conference held at The University of Michigan.
UPUA was originally invited to attend the conference, but UPUA president Hillary Lewis said she received an e-mail message from University of Michigan representative Anton Vuljaj reneging the invitation on the grounds that Vuljaj wasn't "fully aware of prior relationships between UPUA and ABTS."
"They invited UPUA and disinvited them," Lewis said. "They said I could come independent of UPUA."
Vuljaj's e-mail message went on to say the ABTS does not recognize UPUA as "fulfilling the definition of a 'student government.' "
Lewis later received a personal e-mail message from ABTS executive director Mohammad Hussain Dar, who apologized for the "mix-up" regarding the original invitation, but felt he was "bound by past legislation into not being able to offer UPUA a voting delegation."
Last January, the ABTS voted for the second time against recognizing UPUA, despite the fact that the student government formerly in power, the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), had officially disbanded.
As a result, Lewis declined to attend the conference, saying she would only attend as a representative of Penn State's officially recognized student government.
Despite a noticeably absent representative voice from UPUA, the conference yielded a resolution, drafted for the purpose of "condemning UPUA," said Gavin Keirans, a former UPUA presidential candidate and creator of the ABTS resolution.
The resolution, submitted Aug. 19 and passed unanimously with one representative abstaining, not only "condemn[s] ... [Vice President of Student Affairs Vicky] Triponey," but "rejects ... [UPUA's] existence."
Also, in place of a UPUA representative, the ABTS invited members of Safeguard Old State (SOS), a campus organization that has recently gained renown for its involvement in student-related affairs, to attend the conference.
Tom Shakely, SOS director for advocacy initiatives, said Lewis' decision to not attend the conference was "inappropriate."
"I think it's kind of arrogant to decide not to attend," he said.
College of Engineering representative Ralph Crivello attended the conference independently from UPUA and considered it a "loss" that Lewis did not attend, noting that ABTS is "very concerned about what's happening."
"They are very concerned," he said. "Their motto is that if it can happen to Penn State, the stripping of students' rights, then it can happen at other universities."
Besides Keirans, Crivello and Shakely, former UPUA vice presidential candidate Mike Anderson attended the conference. While there, Keirans said, the ABTS mainly discussed UPUA.
"The main focus of the conference was Penn State," he said. "From the get-go, it was clear that Penn State was the issue."