General Body Meeting

April 22, 2018

9:00 PM Benjamin Franklin Room, Houston Hall

  1. Roll Call
  2. Open Forum
  3. Reports
  1. President’s Report
  1. Administrator Meetings
  1. Penn Violence Prevention - Jessica Mertz
  1. Student Group Meetings
  1. Student Sustainability Association at Penn (SSAP)
  1. Upcoming Meetings
  1. Speaker Advisory Group
  2. Council of Undergraduate Deans
  3. Other Meetings
  1. Vice President’s Report
  1. University Council
  1. UA Report
  1. Membership Update
  2. Feedback Discussion Series
  3. Cabinet
  4. Internal Communication
  1. Treasurer’s Report
  1. Elections to the Budget and Finance Committee
  1. Secretary’s Report
  1. Executive
  1. Confirmation of the Speaker Pro Tempore
  2. Discussion Paper on First Semester Grading System
  3. Project Update on Improving Penn Mobile
  1. Discussion Papers
  2. Project Updates
  3. Completion Reports
  4. External Seats
  5. Communications


President’s Report

  1. Administrator Meetings
  1. Penn Violence Prevention - Jessica Mertz
  1. On Wednesday, April 11, Michelle Xu, immediate past UA president, and I met with Director of Penn Violence Prevention (PVP) Jessica Mertz to discuss the UA’s progress as an Anti-Violence Engagement Network (AVEN) group. We discussed our commitment to continuing in this network next year and the steps that that would require.
  2. As a member of AVEN, UA members are invited to the PVP Student Recognition Party on Monday, April 23 from 6-8pm in the Cohen Hall Terrace Room. Members of the UA’s 45th Session should have received an email invite. I will forward information to new members.
  1. Student Group Meetings
  1. Student Sustainability Association at Penn (SSAP)
  1. On Friday, April 6, Jordan Andrews and I met with Jose Angel Maciel, Hannah Sanders, and Johanna Matt-Navarro (current co-chairs and former co-chair of SSAP) to discuss ways that the UA can incentivize sustainability in its own meetings, as well as to improve project work that relates to sustainability. Highlights include providing for plant-based food at meetings, clarifying our off-campus recycling guide, and liaising with environmental groups to get the word out about their initiatives.
  1. Upcoming Meetings
  1. Speaker Advisory Group
  1. The Speaker Advisory Group (SAG) is comprised of undergraduate and graduate student leaders and we will be meeting with Vice President and University Secretary Leslie Kruhly to discuss the process for selecting a University Commencement speaker and to brainstorm possible ideas for consideration. This is for consideration of speakers in 2019 and later. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 24.
  1. Council of Undergraduate Deans (CUD)
  1. On Wednesday, May 9, I will meet with the Council of Undergraduate Deans (CUD) to discuss academic issues. Joining me at this and every CUD meeting is the Chair External of SCUE, Justin Bean.
  1. Other Meetings
  1. I will be scheduling a series of administrator meetings over the course of the Final Exam period such that I can help to continue the UA’s relationship with administrators in many campus departments, and to go over goals for the upcoming session. If anyone has suggestions for administrators to meet with, or topic areas that you would like me to discuss, please let me know.

Vice-President’s Report

  1. University Council
  1. The past Wednesday we had University Council, and we went over reports from each of the individual UC Committees. These reports included the Committee on Academic Related Affairs, the Committee in Campus and Community Life, the Committee on Diversity and Equity, and the Committee on Facilities.
  2. There will be no more University Council meetings this semester.

UA Report

  1. Membership Update
  1. Noah Kest informed exec prior to the meeting that will resign as a College Representative as he is studying abroad. We have reached out to the runner up and are still awaiting a response
  1. Feedback Discussion Series
  1. Prior to this meeting, I held a discussion series based on feedback on the UA from last session. If you have other feedback that you want to see changed feel free to reach out to me and I will send a form.
  1. Cabinet
  1. This year’s cabinet is…
  1. Internal Communication
  1. Contact Sheet
  1. I will be sending out a contact sheet to everyone to get to know you a bit better and get your information for next year.
  1. Slack
  1. I have invited everyone to join the new Slack workspace, let me know if you have not received the invite.

Treasurer’s Report

  1. Elections to the Budget and Finance Committee
  1. Elections for Budget and Finance Committee (“Budget Committee”) will happen at the next GBM at the beginning of the next school year. As per UA bylaws, the two other members of the Budget Committee that assist the Treasurer are to be elected by the conclusion of the second GBM of each session. If you are interested in running for the Budget Committee, please reach out to me at


Confirmation of the Speaker Pro Tempore

Authored by: Brian Goldstein

According to the UA Bylaw 21 (Section II), “By the end of the first meeting held after their election the Speaker shall appoint, with the advice and consent of the UA, a Speaker Pro Tempore who shall assist the Speaker and chair meetings of the UA in the absence of the Speaker.”

The Speaker Pro Tempore (SPT) will serve as an assistant to the Speaker and help to promote the initiatives of the Speaker in terms of education, UA community, and procedure. The SPT will also chair meetings in the Speaker’s absence.

The rest of Exec and I have chosen to appoint Sahitya as this year’s Speaker Pro Tempore. After meeting with several qualified candidates with a lot of great ideas, Sahitya has demonstrated that she has the experience and initiatives to help me execute the office of Speaker and provide for an inclusive and rewarding experience on the UA.


The Undergraduate Assembly hereby:

First Semester Grading System

Authored by: Sahitya Mandalapu

Several institutions have a “Pass/Fail” policy for the first semester of college for new students. These include Johns Hopkins, MIT, Swarthmore, and more..  Furthermore, at Harvard students can take as many as one-half of their general-education requirements pass/fail. If you receive an A, B, or C grade, it shows up as a “P” on your transcript. D’s or F’s do not appear on your transcript at all, there is just no reflection that you ever took the course. The benefits include:


  1. Would students abuse this system by not trying as hard in their first semester as a result of not having grades?
  2. Are there any specific programs/majors that this would seriously affect negatively?
  3. Could this affect early job recruitment positively or negatively (no GPA)?
  4. What would be the anticipated administrator pushback?
  1. Who are some administrators that would be receptive to this idea?

Improving Penn Mobile

Authored by: Jennifer Richards

Last week I met with a representative from Penn Labs where I suggested additions to make in Penn Mobile. This included the contact information (address and phone numbers) for a variety of mental health resources like Penn Benjamins, RAP Line, Student Intervention Services, etc... as well as cultural resource centers. A description of their purpose and where they are located if applicable will be include. A new feature will also potentially be to book CAPS appointments through the app. These are changes set to be made in the near future.



We discussed the president’s past and upcoming admin meetings, as well as the last UC meeting and tuition increase. We talked about the new 5 committee structure, appointed the new cabinet positions, and formally elected the new SPT, Sahitya. There was a discussion about the possibility of making 1st semester Pass/Fail, and the involvement of the UA with PennLabs and Penn Mobile.  

  1. Roll Call
  2. Open Forum
  1. Daniel, member of the public: I’m a freshman in the college and  prospective member of UA after a current elected member has resigned.  
  2. Ben: The new administration of UA would like to increase interaction between Penn and the Philadelphia community. Does anyone have any ideas of how Penn could be more involved? Drexel wants to make a sustainability program and Penn could spearhead.
  3. Jenn: As the UA and even Pennas a whole  could volunteer in the Philadelphia community.
  4. Michael: We should lobby for equal opportunity among student and student groups to participate in volunteering.  
  5. Max: Publicising different volunteer groups and clubs on campus would make these opportunities more available to everyone.
  6. Sahitya: As student leaders we should volunteer more.
  7. Natasha: Pennvolvement is a database that community service based clubs are involved with. The SPT could work with SAC to revive and publicise its existence among the student body.
  8. Max: Are non-SAC recognized groups included in this database?
  9. Natasha: Yes.
  10. Sith: Would making community service hours mandatory for groups on campus be an option?
  11. Michael: It would be difficult to mandate community service to every group, but the “get involved at penn” website that John Casey and I have developed includes a community involvement tab which could  be a good way to disseminate this information.
  12. Natasha: Go to civic house to get more involved. Civic scholars volunteer here, so it is a great opportunity to volunteer. It is not Penn invading the community, but it is a good way to listen to the needs of the community.
  13. Jordan: Another thing, you should all go to the PVP Student Recognition Party tomorrow from 6-8pm in the terrace room of Cohen Hall because we are working to become an Aven group and it would help show your support.
  1. Reports
  1. President’s Report
  1. Administrator Meetings
  1. Penn Violence Prevention - Jessica Mertz
  1. Michael: On Wednesday, Michelle and I met with Jessica Mertz to discuss the UA’s process in becoming an AVEN group. We learned that Sabor training is the only thing we have left in this process. I am interested in continuing as an AVEN group next year by making them more accessible in order to boost attendance at the trainings.
  2. Michael: The PVP Recognition event is tomorrow in Cohen; old and new members should attend.
  3. Sahitya: Do groups have to go through each of the trainings each year?
  4. Michael: Yes, it is important to go through the trainings with each new group of people.
  5. Kev: Did you meet with SVIO?
  6. Michael: Not yet, but that is something that I am looking into. I would like to meet one on one with many groups that we as a UA have not contacted in previous years.
  7. Nick: Why do we want to become an AVEN group? And what is AVEN?
  8. Michael: AVEN is a series of groups that combats sexual assault and violence. It is helpful and important for the UA to serve as an example to other groups and organizations on campus.
  1. Student Group Meetings
  1. Student Sustainability Association at Penn (SSAP)
  1. Michael: Jordan and I met with SSAP to see how UA and other could be more environmentally friendly. Examples include ideas like having non-meat alternatives at various gatherings and instead having things like chips and cookies.
  2. Ben: What did SSAP think about the off campus recycling guide? Is it something they would like to see continue?
  3. Michael: The guide is good, but it really is not enough; they want a more holistic version of everyone being more sustainable across campus.
  1. Upcoming Meetings
  1. Speaker Advisory Group
  1. Michael: Tuesday, I have a meeting with SAG, which is a group that helps decide who will be the speaker at the 2019 commencement ceremony. Does anyone have any feedback or ideas? People from Penn Traditions as well as other positions that represent Penn spirit and the student body are involved in this group.
  1. Council of Undergraduate Deans
  1. Michael: On May 9th I will be meeting with CUD. I have no idea what to expect from this meeting. CUD is a collection of Undergrad Deans, the Provost, the Vice Provost of Education, and the chair External of SCUE, among others.
  1. Other Meetings
  1. Michael: Feel free to reach out about admin meetings you guys would like to see in the future.
  1. Vice President’s Report
  1. University Council
  1. Jordan: So, the last UC was on the 18th. Jay led the delegation since we had not fully transitioned, and he had been over it for the entire year. This was the last UC meeting of the year, so we reviewed old projects and new business will be discussed next year.
  2. Michael: Could you elaborate on tuition increase?
  3. Jordan: Sure. The reason Penn increases tuition may be because we spend more than we have. The tuition will continue to increase because of this.
  4. Sahitya: Where does endowment go?
  5. Jordan: To clarify, Penn is not in debt; it spends more than it makes in revenue, which means that Penn is not making a profit.
  6. Jenn: If every year tuition will increase, by the time we have kids will it be ridiculous?
  7. Jordan: I don't know, but it is likely to continue to increase. At this moment, it is unclear whether it will ever stop or level off.
  8. Michael: Tuition is different from other costs; other costs tend to increase at a higher rate so tuition also increases in order to cover these costs. This mostly affects students who are in the middle bracket, as students who get full aid are covered and those who pay in full are able to do so easily. Those who are in the middle receive little aid and are left struggling to cover the increase in tuition.
  9. Natasha: From what I understand, endowment is mostly sitting money collecting interest.
  10. Jordan: Yes, the endowment is not typically spent.
  11. Arjun: Do you know the exact percentage increase?
  12. Jordan: 3.8% which is lower than last years increase, but tuition still increased in dollar amount because the 3.8% was applied to a larger amount of money.
  1. UA Report
  1. Membership Update
  1. Brian: Noah is studying abroad next semester, so he will no longer be able to participate in UA. We have a potential new member, Daniel, who will decide at a later time if he would like to join or not.
  2. Ben: Is Noah coming back in the spring?
  3. Brian: No, it does not work that way.
  4. Michael: This decision does not reflect negatively on Noah. He did not apply to the UA knowing he was going abroad; he literally made the decision at the last minute so it is fine.
  1. Feedback Discussion Series
  1. Brian: I held a discussion series roughly 30 minutes ago. I am looking forward to continuing these in order to find ways to improve the UA moving forward.
  2. Kev: Could this document be sent to members?
  3. Brian: Yes. We will send it with minutes.
  1. Cabinet
  1. Brian: Cabinet decisions were released, and I just want to emphasise that it was a tough decision because 80% of the eligible UA applied for a position. Everyone was really qualified.
  2. Brian: The positions are: Ben May for SCI, Max Grove for AI, Jess Andrews for SCL, Jude Dartey for EI, and Maria Curry for DHT. Comm Director is Sravya Alla, and SPT is Sahitya Mandalapu. Remember that committees meet once a week. This will be a great year and I am looking forward to see how much we accomplish.
  3. Ben: Do you want committee directors to make new slack group?
  4. Brian: No, I will make the new slacks for everyone.
  5. Michael: I want to reiterate that we had a very long conversation in Exec about the new 5 committee structure. We decided that more specific titles would allow the UA to achieve more while also allowing members of these new committees to be more inventive and do a lot of great work within the new committees. However, it is important to remember that committees are not boxes and you are allowed to to projects in all areas.
  6. Ben: Are you allowed to transfer between committees?
  7. Brian: No.
  8. Arjun: Does this mean that there will be just enough members of Exec to be the Exec Liaison for each committee?
  9. Brian: Yes, but I will try to go to more than one committee if it is possible.
  1. Internal Communication
  1. Brian: I will be sending out a contact sheet, so please fill out your name, email, phone number, etc. as well as a fun question maybe.
  2. Sith: We should include birthdays!
  3. Brian: Sure. It should be turned in before summer.
  4. Sith: I liked the VCard last session, but it duplicates contacts everytime you save it.
  5. Max: There is an option, especially on iPhones, to  merge the contacts so that this does not happen.
  6. Brian: I’ll look into it to see how to make this more effective. Also, I sent out invited for the new UA slack group. Please use this instead of the old one.
  7. Michael: Could we create an “In Philly Over the Summer” channel?
  8. Brian: Sure.
  1. Treasurer’s Report
  1. Elections to the Budget and Finance Committee
  1. Natasha: Two members will be in the budget committee, and they will be elected at the next GBM. Budget committee is a great way to be involved and it also makes it easier to learn how the budget process works. It also provides experience with moving forward in the budget process in the coming years if anyone wants to run for treasurer potentially. Reach out with any questions!
  1. Executive
  1. Confirmation of the Speaker Pro Tempore
  1. Brian: By the bylaws, we need to have an election for SPT. We have to confirm Sahitya as the SPT with pro/con debate followed by a vote.
  2. Michael: Pro- Sahitya will do an amazing job. She will be a great social point person and create institutional advancement within the UA.
  3. Arjun: Pro- Same as Michael.
  4. Brain: Congrats to Sahitya. That was fun.
  1. Discussion Paper on First Semester Grading System
  1. Sahitya: After some research, I learned that some peer institutions allow new students to take first semester courses pass/fail. I wanted to get thoughts on this topic potentially being an option at Penn.
  2. Arjun: I agree with this idea.
  3. Ben: I remember Brian talking about how  Penn doesn't have grade inflation. I think this is a good start in the process of getting Penn to become more open to having grade inflation. This is especially important to new students when acclimating to a new campus and environment. Having a more accommodating class schedule would be beneficial.
  4. Arjun: It makes sense and it is valuable to be able to explore without consequence. It would be difficult in classes with curves, though. It would be really valuable in the process of  job recruitment because GPA really matters in that setting.
  5. Sahitya: Another area of concern is how early OCR is and how companies would view me or freshmen in general who do not yet have a GPA to provide; would they base it solely on merit?
  6. Kev: How much does first semester really affect people? Personally, my first semester was fine, and the second semester was very difficult in comparison. So is this even necessary?
  7. Sahitya: I was looking at Pre-Med/STEM majors, those with difficult intro classes that are detrimental to new student’s GPA. Could this be a choice?
  8. Sravya: This could be beneficial, but at other schools, people take much harder classes in their 1st semesters, while here people take easier ones. For OCR, I went to a roundtable discussion where it was determined that there is not much Penn or Wharton can do about how early OCR is.
  9. Nick: Yeah, it’s great at other schools, here not so much. Personally, my first semester GPA was the best I had since coming to Penn. Not having my best GPA as a part of my overall GPA would be bad. Having some classes not count would also reduce overall effort.
  10. Sahitya: Yeah, Wharton Director of Career Services have given up on pushback about OCR.
  11. Natasha: 1st semester pass/fail is good, but Harvard has ½ of gen-ed is pass fail instead. This could help reduce pressure of majors without interest in certain gen-eds courses. Also, I think admin would be receptive because of the huge mental wellness push on campus. Not having the stress is beneficial to the student body.
  12. Max: If you’re going to pursue this project, I would suggest pursuing it school by school. I feel like admin won't like this idea because the recent pass/fail deadline was pushed back, which they see as a kind of grade inflation. You’ll get a lot of pushback.
  13. Sahitya: Since you mentioned doing it school by school, do you think there will there be hostility from schools that don't have it?
  14. Max: What I meant was to reach out to each school individually.
  15. Jess: As nursing students, we can't do pass/fail in the 1st semester. An actual grade is required for licensing purposes and for the science component of our GPA.
  16. Michael: I would look into the possibility of making gen-eds pass/fail in The College. For example, taking writing sem in fall rather than in the spring. The 1st semester is definitely the biggest transition for students. I suggest going out and doing research about the typical GPA of a college student in the first semester semester and how it compares to the second and third semesters. Also take into consideration credit limits and other school specific stuff.
  17. Jenn: I don't see how this is possible across all four schools. In the college, this is feasible, but it is not possible for all four.
  18. Jude: Is this a policy or an option for the other schools listed?
  19. Sahitya: This is a policy at Johns Hopkins and an option at Harvard.
  20. Ammar: Also, you need a grade for pre-med gen-eds in order to get into Med school. Maybe look into the option of shopping classes in addition to 4 CU students actually taking. Another thing could be looking into grade percentages in classes for a better curve, and also pushing for classes to add drop tests, especially for freshman. First exams are overwhelming, but the second exam often goes better.
  21. Sravya: Similar to Ammar, but standardizing a curving system across the school in general could be helpful.
  22. Jordan: It would be difficult, but honestly good advising is necessary. Not making it about grades, but it is important that you are advised to take classes that are best for you. Also, not having grades in a class is an issue; it isn't the best option to eliminate grades from classes.
  23. Maher: Does Penn release GPA info?
  24. Sahitya: Wharton releases average GPAs by career.
  25.  Maher: That’s not helpful, but okay.
  26. Nick: We should advertise pass/fail more.
  27. Ben: We should have the option of exploring. Not necessarily for intro courses because there were more people sitting in the class as a shopping course, and it messes up the course flow and the enjoyment of those who are actually taking the course. It is to relaxed; making pass fail as an option rather than a policy is better.
  28. Sahitya: Are there any specific schools with this Pass/Fail system?
  29. Ammar: I would emphasize pushing the Ivies especially because they are who Penn is more likely to conform to.
  30. Jenn: Ben, you do know that you can do that now. We could advertise the option better.
  31. Sahitya: How would taking classes pass/fail affect the culture at penn? Some people would be struggling through their difficult classes, while others are carefree.
  32. Jude: Shopping for classes is irrelevant; we should just have better advising. We should tell advisors to publicize information better to their advisees.
  33. Natasha: About the effect, it would not negatively affect the culture here at Penn. You would still have to take difficult classes for a grade in order to get into grad school or move on professionally anyways.
  34. Ammar: At these other schools, shopping isn't for freshman only. All four years are able to do it. It is to help expand exploration in classes you’re interested in.
  1. Project Update on Improving Penn Mobile
  1. Jenn: Two weeks ago, I met with PennLabs about the possibility of including the contact information of important groups who aren't currently included on Penn Mobile. Also, we discussed the possibility of including the ability to book GSRs, send emails, and other things.
  2. Sahitya: RAP line is confidential right?
  3. Jenn: Yes, but the contact info is public.
  4. Nick: Wharton has an app that is helpful to professors and students where the students are able to sign into class through the app. Could that be a possibility for PennMobile?
  5. Michael: As a UA we should be more involved with Penn Mobile. It would be nice to work with PennLabs to improve student engagement with Penn Mobile and disseminate information to the student body.
  6. Jenn: They’re working on creating a user-tailored webpage based on the information provided about various interests of Penn Mobile users.
  7. Arjun: I just wanted to say good work Jenn on another amazing project.
  8. Max: It’s good that you’re interested in working on helping  PennLabs to grow; It’s important to work with other schools to encourage them to work with PennLabs as well. They could incentivize students to download the app which would increase engagement.
  9. Brian: Who did you meet with from PennLabs?
  10. Jenn: Dominic.
  11. Brian: Okay. Reach out to me or Mercedes for admin contact info.
  1. Discussion Papers
  2. Project Updates
  3. Completion Reports
  4. External Seats
  5. Communications