The University Park Undergraduate Association general assembly met for a Committee of the Whole last night in place of its typical weekly meeting.
The meeting agenda consisted of no legislation and instead, after reports by UPUA president Courtney Lennartz (senior-health policy administration), and Chair of the Assembly Spencer Malloy (senior-agroecology and philosophy) involved a presentation by Penn State senior sociology lecturer Sam Richards. Richards’ talk was then followed by a lively discussion amongst the general assembly.
Lennartz report began with a short recap of her involvement in creating an alcohol safe zone for State Patty’s Day. She then moved on to discuss a recent meeting she attended along with Facilities Committee chairman Dave Harrington (senior-political science) and the Facilities Fee Board, expressing a hope that the Osmond Renovation project could be accomplished by next spring.
Malloy’s report followed Lennartz’s, after which, Richards began his presentation to the general assembly.
Richards first complimented UPUA members on their efforts to control State Patty’s Day.
“As someone who enjoyed partying as an undergrad, I’m impressed by your willingness to work to get this thing under control,” Richards said, continuing to express his belief that in a few years State Patty’s Day will no longer exist.
The bulk of Richards’ presentation focused on the importance of passion and open dialogue in creating change, specifically with regard to combating sexual assault and improving race relations.
“Here’s the thing that has to happen from student representatives. You have to really want a diverse community. You have to see the value in it for yourself, and you have to see the value in it for other people,” said Richards.
World in Conversation, a program Richards co-founded, strives to accomplish this effort, by forcing people out of their comfort zone and away from political correctness according to Richards.
“A girl might sit two rows down from you all semester, but you’re probably never going to approach her and say ‘Hey, what’s up with that hijab thing?’ This is your chance to do that,” Richards said of World in Conversation, describing it as a method to facilitate an open dialogue.
Student Life and Diversity Chair Dutch Markward, who is responsible for requesting Richards’ presentation to UPUA, believes that Richards’ efforts are worthwhile.
“He is very articulate in how he goes about speaking on these subjects. We invited him because we wanted him to talk about his project and open the eyes of individuals in our organization on how to talk to the administration about how to combat sexual violence and race relations problems,” said Markward (sophomore-business administration).
The remainder of the meeting was dedicated to Committee of the Whole, an open discussion among the general assembly.
“The main reason we had a Committee of the Whole was that we wanted to gauge representatives feedback and personal concerns in order to improve in the future. Richards’ presentation was a great way to open the door to candid conversation,” said UPUA Vice President Katelyn Mullen (junior-supply chain and information systems.
Many in the General Assembly spoke, repeatedly stating that the most important step for UPUA members it to truly be bold about communicating with one another and asserting their opinions on the subjects they and their constituents are passionate about.
“A lot of this conversation has been informative, humbling, useful. I just want to impress on you to continue this conversation after you leave the room,” said Malloy.