UPUA Burns the Midnight Oil, Split on Raising Student Activity Fee

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If there’s one good thing about this UPUA Assembly, it’s that they don’t shy away from heated discussion. Long gone are the days where UPUA blows through the new business for the evening in ten minutes; now, it seems like every piece of legislation receives extreme scrutiny from all of the big personalities in the room, which often leads to multiple amendments and a beautiful parliamentary mess.

Last night was no different.

The meeting opened with a presentation from Alan Jenesch on the Penn State Grassroots Network, a legislative education and advocacy group formed in 2003 by the Penn State Alumni Association. The group helps plan Capitol Day every year, and aims to encourage students and alumni alike to get involved in securing funding from the state.

In Vice President Dooley’s report, he mentioned that meetings between the students and tavern owners were still ongoing.

“At this juncture, there’s going to be a very broad spectrum as to what the bars will do,” said Dooley. “There’s no consensus as to what each tavern owner will do.” Dooley mentioned that bar owners were still considering all options, whether that be closing down completely or just limiting hours. He said its likely there is a wide mix of outcomes from bar to bar, but that there will likely be no consensus or joint agreement.

After the liaison reports, the assembly started on the new business for the evening. The first piece of legislation on deck was Policy 10-08, which would have added a new Change of Campus Representative to the Assembly. There are currently around 3,000 students at University Park right now who transferred from commonwealth campuses, and Rep. Ted Ritsick (a proud branch campus kid himself — by the way, he told me he prefers branch to Commonwealth) believed these students were not represented well enough throughout UPUA. Like freshmen, these transfer students weren’t around for the previous semester’s spring election, so they don’t get to be the part of the proud 10 percent of students who dutifully vote in the UPUA election every April.

“They need someone to advocate for them,” said Ritsick.

However, the policy received some backlash when other representatives pointed out that change of campus are already represented by their college representatives, by their living arrangements by an off or on-campus representative, as well as by the at-large representatives in the Assembly. It was also pointed out that, logistically, these transfer students still wouldn’t get to vote for this prospective representative — it would be selected by UPUA leadership, just like the two freshman representatives.

“These people are all represented by someone in this room. I don’t think they need another one,” said Rep. Lina Montopoli.

The policy was amended to include all transfer students (including students not coming from a Penn State campus) into the position, but the policy was ultimately recommitted due to the omission of a detailed election procedure and the need for more information to include students transferring from non-branch campuses.

The assembly also approved a set of State Patty’s Day recommendations for the administration last night, despite being split on several issues. The resolution recommends or supports several main points of action:

  • The efforts of Greek life to suspend all parties during that weekend
  • The efforts of apartment complexes to beef up security measures
  • Preventing guests from staying in residence halls
  • DOES NOT SUPPORT efforts to pay local bars to close
  • Immediate cessation of the production or sale of merchandise promoting the holiday
  • Enforcement of registration processes in all downtown apartment complexes
  • A working collaboration to put an end to the destruction that visitors cost
  • More restrictions for taverns that stay open for the holiday, such as not allowing green clothing and increasing cover charges

Almost immediately, Ritsick motioned to strike the last point from the legislation.

“In no way should we be advocating bars to increase cover charges for students,” said Ritsick. “That’s absolutely egregious.”

Other representatives weren’t too eager to strike the entire point from the resolution, but they agreed that the part about not allowing green clothing seemed a bit excessive. Instead of striking the whole point, the assembly eventually decided to just strike the “not allowing green clothing and increasing cover charges” part, which gives the administration and community more discretion to limit alcohol sales. (Side Note: Listening to people talk about green shirts for 40 minutes is time I’ll never get back.)

Next, the assembly motioned to strike the entire first point from the legislation as well. Like the previous amendment, preventing the sale of green clothing seemed excessive and almost impractical, as Dooley pointed out.

“As long as people are making money off this, they’re going to,” said Dooley.

The first point was eventually removed from the amendment and after a solid hour of debate, the resolution finally passed with a vote of 35-8-0.

UPUA also passed a few smaller pieces of legislation last night as well. A policy was passed to permanently move UPUA election day to 13 academic days after spring break. There was also a resolution that recommended the Faculty Senate revise the excused absence policy to include interviews. Last but not least, Kaila Williams was confirmed as the ninth and final justice for the Board of Arbitration.

The assembly also took an informal vote between two proposed increases to the Student Activity Fee. Both Chair Anthony Panichelli and President Mullen have a vote on the Student Activity Fee Board, so they polled the Assembly to get their thoughts. After a long discussion, 21 UPUA representatives voted in favor of a $4 fee increase, thought to be the bare minimum the fee will go up by, while 20 voted in favor of a $6 increase, which would theoretically allow for more organizations to request UPAC funds. This has become a rather critical issue within the student bodyand I was shocked to see the assembly so split. It’s not known how UPUA’s representatives will vote at the meeting to raise the fee on Friday, but Panichelli certainly seemed more against a fee increase than Mullen, at least in the brief remarks last night.

Tie of the Week

No ties this week, unfortunately, as almost every UPUA member rushed out of 302 HUB as soon as the meeting was adjourned at 11:30 p.m., disillusioned and exhausted.

Photo By: Zach Berger
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Greg is a senior majoring in energy engineering at Penn State.

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