Last night’s UPUA meeting, the second-to-last of the semester, featured a little policy and some heated discussion. Also, for the second time this semester, the rules were suspended, but it was more in the name of discussion than politics.
The meeting began with a special presentation from Michael Büsges, the enterprise project director for LionPATH, regarding the new system and concerns students have voiced thus far…like the fact that LionPATH is impossible to navigate and terribly unpleasing visually.
“I’m fully aware that there is some traffic around this, some complaints with the interface, and we’re hearing them,” Büsges said.
Büsges discussed how eLion was built in the mid-80s and its “face” was continuously updated and the university did a good job of optimizing the system. He said, however, it was a “business need” for Penn State to move to a new technology. While this is true, the administration (namely Barron) has always maintained that Penn State shouldn’t function as a business for students.
“Change is difficult, and people react differently to change. I’m not sugarcoating anything, but people accept change differently,” Büsges said.
Büsges mentioned that the university plans to have LionPATH fully implemented by the end of the fall semester and that, in the meantime, there will be a LionPATH app rolled out in about a week. We’ll see what that looks like, but I can’t imagine the user-interface could get any worse than the desktop site. The overall message of the presentation was that those in charge of LionPATH hear students concerns about the look of the site, but there are a lot of advantages to the new system and a lot of work to still be done.
And though both the LionPATH team and Speaker Alexander Shockley said appearance and navigation updates are nigh, for now it looks like we’re stuck with the headache.
“You kind of have to use it whether you like it or not,” Büsges said.
President Terry Ford and Vice President Katie Jordan gave their reports next, wherein Jordan updated the assembly on the progress of the smoke-free initiative. She said the administration was extremely receptive of the report and hopes to make it a university-wide initiative.
Following the five-minute caucus breakout, the only new business was the confirmation of Director of Communications Logan Echard and Chief Justice of the Judicial Board Eric Love. Both candidates were nominated by Ford and approved by the steering committee before being brought to the floor for the assembly to approve by vote. Echard, who wants to shed a more positive light on UPUA, was confirmed unanimously, but the discussion for Love was much lengthier.
Ford spoke highly of Love and the reason he nominated him for the position, but outgoing Chief Justice Joe Arias wasn’t as supportive, saying that Love is “qualified but not fit” for the job. Arias also said that it’s not ethical to give one person (Love) the nomination because you’re more friendly with them or know them better, insinuating that Ford was more willing to put Love up for Chief because the two are such good friends. On top of that, Arias had other reservations.
“Can Eric do the job? I think any justice on the board can do the job,” Arias said. “Is he the best person? I don’t think so. He tends to be overarching and tends to direct people instead of asking people.”
Various members of the assembly voiced support for Love’s mastery of policy or concerns in his ability to serve as Chief. As more people got to talking, Arias was forced to respond more, and the assembly had to move to suspend the rules so members could speak more than twice, as Robert’s Rules state that no assembly member can do so regarding the same candidate’s election. While suspending the rules might seem unnecessary as it just afforded individuals more opportunities to reiterate their same opinions, it was in fact extremely beneficial to the discussion because it gave the assembly more opportunities to hammer things out. I understand following policy protocol is important, discussion should come first when the assembly is trying to figure something out.
In addition to the concerns about Love serving as Chief, there was question as to how Love was brought to the floor and a lack of clarity as to why the other person interested in the position wasn’t given as many opportunities to present himself. The way the Chief Justice is elected is the president makes a nomination, steering interviews and votes on the individual, and they are brought to the floor for approval.
“I nominated the person I thought would best for the position,” Ford said regarding claims that the other potential candidate was slighted by the bylaws or Ford’s alliances. “Eric reached out to me and Nick [Rockwell, the other potential candidate] did not, but I had heard his name mentioned.”
As the assembly began to discuss Rockwell more and more, saying he wasn’t given the proper opportunity to be nominated because of policy ambiguities and discrepancies, Shockley and Ford reminded everyone that, according to basic parliamentary procedure, the discussion should only focus on the candidate that was nominated for the position and discussing his or her merits.
“Let’s not cloud our judgement because people have heard there might be personal problems,” Ford said.
Because Love was already nominated by Ford and approved by Steering, the assembly’s job is to vote yes or no on Love and not concern itself with any other potential candidate.
“I want your guys head in the game,” Shockley said right before the vote. “Nick’s name should have never come up.”
Arias left the room before the votes were even turned in and Love was confirmed with a vote of 20-13.
On a lighter note, Speaker Shockley congratulated Emily Miller, Andrew Ahr, and anyone who worked with Faculty Senate in the past or present to pass the mandate of an online syllabus and the basis that grade feedback must be available before the late drop deadline.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:04 p.m. UPUA will meet back in the HUB next week for its final meeting of the 2015-16 school year, a crazy one indeed for the University Park Undergraduate Association.