What is the Penn Political Union? The Penn Political Union (PPU) is a nonpartisan organization that holds monthly debates on relevant political topics. During each debate, two sides, the proposition and the opposition, engage in a back-and-forth exchange of ideas. The proposition favors the debate resolution, whereas the opposition opposes the resolution. In addition to student debates, we host guest speaker and panel events.
The PPU is a branch of a larger umbrella organization: The University of Pennsylvania Government and Politics Association (GPA). The GPA is also committed to nonpartisan dialogue.
What kinds of topics does the PPU debate? Each month, the Penn Political Union debates a topic of national or international importance. In the past , topics have included universal healthcare, the need for free public university tuition, the merits of the Iranian nuclear deal, a ban on handguns, and drone policy.
What is the format of PPU debates? There are two categories of debate that the Penn Political Union employs. The first style consists of two teams, the proposition and the opposition, of three students each. At the beginning of debates, the proposition and opposition leaders each deliver a four-minute speech. After they finish their speeches, members of the proposition and opposition have the chance to deliver three minute remarks. They can deliver their speeches without interruption or they can answer questions from other people in the room. The debate concludes with closing remarks from the proposition and opposition leaders, following which each person in the audience votes in favor of or against the resolution (or abstains).
The Union also hosts debates against esteemed speakers, who are leaders in their field. The format of these debates is much the same, however in these cases, a team of three students debates against the speaker.
How does the Penn Political Union differ from other political organizations on campus?
The Penn Political Union is unusual for identifying as a nonpartisan organization. Unlike Penn Democrats and College Republicans, it does not give favorable treatment to one political party or ideology. We have, among our ranks, self-proclaimed communists and passionate Trump-supporters.
One of the biggest benefits of joining the Penn Political Union is that it offers Penn students the opportunity to learn from people who hold drastically different beliefs. Rather than living in an echo chamber with like-minded students, PPU members take the time to reach out to people across the spectrum to discuss the most controversial issues facing America. Just as importantly, the Penn Political Union offers a comfortable and supportive environment for students to meet new friends and find a niche on campus.
The Penn Political Union is also uniquely defined by its caucus system. In addition to general membership, joining a caucus allows students to organize for debates with ideolgically like minded peers. Each caucus hosts its own events, including guest lectures and social events. Students often make their closest friends at Penn through the caucus system.
How can I get involved with the Penn Political Union?
If you are interested in the organization, please fill out our interest form.
Please consider attending one of our upcoming sessions. We are always thrilled to invite new members to our debates. No one is committed to speak at debates, though we certainly look forward to hearing prospective members share their thoughts. Debates typically take place in Houston Hall.
If you are convinced that you want to join one of the five caucuses, we recommend that you contact the relevant caucus leader. You should also feel welcome to contact any of the PPU leaders if you have questions about the organization.
For general information about the Penn Political Union, check out our Facebook page. We are very responsive to Facebook messages if you have any questions.
For any other questions, comments, or concerns, including how to get in touch with the Board and Caucus chairs, please check out our Contact page.
How do I become a voting member?
Once you attend two PPU debates, you automatically qualify as a voting member of the organization. As a voting member, you have the ability to vote in PPU elections. Additionally, you are counted as a member of the larger umbrella organization, the University of Pennsylvania Government and Politics Association (GPA).
The Penn Political Union is committed to welcome all interested members to the organization. We intentionally do not have an application process – anyone is welcome!