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about 6 months ago

UPUA Hears From Trustee Joel Myers, Votes Unanimously

Sean Gregory

It was a quiet night in 302 HUB as the University Park Undergraduate Association assembled for its final meeting of the 2013-2014 academic year.

The meeting kicked off with a special presentation from Dr. Joel Myers, founder and president of AccuWeather and current member of the Board of Trustees. Myers has served on the board since 1981 and is currently running for reelection.

Myers began with a brief explanation of his history with the university that began in the late 1950s as a freshman at Penn State’s Abington campus. He transferred to University Park for his sophomore year and attained an undergraduate degree in meteorology in 1961. Myers would go on to obtain both a Master’s and Ph.D. in the field in 1963 and 1971, respectively, and he developed AccuWeather during his time as a graduate student.

Following his introduction, Myers entertained several questions from representatives, the majority of which pertained to how the Board can increase accessibility and better work with student leaders around University Park and the Commonwealth.

“Well, I’m here,” Myers answered with a laugh. “I think there should be more interplay between the Board, faculty, and students. It can only be beneficial. I’m in favor of as much interaction as possible.”

Myers also encouraged all representatives to reach out to current Board members and to attend public sessions of Board meetings.

When asked about what the Board has done to explore additional scholarship opportunities for students, Myers admittedly danced around the answer, opting to touch on the importance of state funding instead.

“Penn State doesn’t get as much money as it should for a public university from the state, and I doubt that’s going to change,”  he said. “If you want top professors and you want a quality education, it costs money. There’s no easy answer to the question, but it is a concern, no question about it.”

Myers also touched upon how incorporating expanding technology into education could serve as a cost-saving method for universities in the future.

“Education is going to change dramatically,” said Myers. “I think some of that will drive down the cost — it has to.”

Though Myers’ future with the Board remains unclear until election results are announced at the next full Board meeting, he remains optimistic about the Board’s future with the transitioning of Dr. Eric Barron.

“We have a great opportunity to take new initiatives with Dr. Barron coming on,” said Myers.

Following his presentation, Speaker of the Assembly John Wortman revealed a new UPUA tradition. Guest speakers for the Ninth Assembly will henceforth leave 302 HUB with a prize: a framed certificate thanking the individual for their time and contributions. I’m sure he’ll display it proudly in his office. No word yet on how much these puppies will cost, but we’ll be sure to find out soon.

The meeting continued along the path of its usual business with President Anand Ganjam and Vice President Emily McDonald giving their weekly reports to the Assembly.  Ganjam highlighted initial conversations with the Student Activity Fee Board regarding tier-structuring between University Park and Commonwealth Campuses. He and Speaker Wortman, who both sit on the board, said the possibility of a revised structure that better fits the needs of the different campus systems will be discussed over the summer. As it stands, University Park is roped into the same fee increases as Penn State Altoona and other larger campuses, which has been an occasional point of contention for the University Park representatives.

In her report, Vice President Emily McDonald discussed a meeting of a task force devoted to student health issues. She said the meeting’s primary focus was initial discussions on a revised student healthcare plan that particularly looks to mitigate costs for graduate students — a contentious issue of late.

Based off both of their reports, we can expect that President Ganjam and Vice President McDonald will have much to discuss when the Assembly reconvenes come fall.

During liaison reports, outgoing UPAC Chair Jesse Scott gave his final report to the Assembly. The body recently released a summary of allocations for the academic year, giving students insight as to where exactly their Student Activity Fee is going. After applause thanking Chair Scott for his services — he has served as Chair for two years and is generally a badass — the Assembly moved into the night’s new business.

The fun part kicked off with the confirmation of Kevin John to the Board of Arbitration. In his speech, a soft-spoken John cited his desire to maintain a “safe and equal environment” for student organizations. He was confirmed with a 29-4 vote.

On to legislation.

Resolution #01-09: Faculty Lunch Program Endorsement

Introduced by Academic Affairs Chair Emily Miller, the legislation elucidates the Assembly’s support for a faculty-student lunch program mirroring one that already exists in both Eberly College of Science and the Schreyer Honors College. The program would allow students to meet with faculty members in on-campus dining halls to build relationships in a more informal setting, and the bill for lunch would be picked up by the colleges as opposed to the students. According to Chair Miller, academic representatives are already in the process of reaching out to administrators in their college regarding the program and feedback is enthusiastic.

After a litany of phrasing and grammatical — some would say amusing — edits by At-Large Representative Melissa McCleery, the legislation passed unanimously.

Resolution #02-09: 2014-2015 UPUA-The Princeton Review Partnership

For the last three assemblies, UPUA has partnered with The Princeton Review to provide subsidized test prep courses for students. This legislation renews the partnership that includes courses for MCAT, LSAT, GMAT, and GRE exams at a $200-$700 discounted rate.

Chair Miller noted that once the contract passes the University’s risk management team, the contract allows courses to be held downtown if UPUA representatives are unable to staff the courses in on-campus rooms, which has historically been an internal annoyance.

The legislation passed unanimously.

Following the vote on The Princeton Review partnership, the Assembly voted to suspend rules outlined in the organization’s budgetary policy for the summer break. As Internal Development Chair Ryan Belz said, doing so allows purchases to be made without a full Assembly vote and enables them to make use of remaining funds from the Eighth Assembly while they are still available. This, too, passed unanimously.

This vote was the final act of new business, but it was not the last vote of the evening. Prior to the meeting, representatives were given a copy of Bill #02-09, which provides funding for two trips of the Blue & White Brigade for the 2014 football season, continuing the program that was established last fall. The legislation allocates $18,150 to fund three charter buses to Rutgers for Penn State’s first B1G face-off against the Scarlet Knights and Michigan for the primetime game.

Although the legislation was not formally considered because it did not pass through the Student Life or Steering Committees, an informal vote was taken to gauge whether or not the Assembly would support allocating these funds during the summer recess under the suspended budgetary policy. Once again, the vote was unanimous.

And with that, UPUA adjourned for the final time this semester. We’ll see you back in 302 HUB come fall to see what else is in store for the Ninth Assembly.

(Disclosure: Ali Fogarty has previously served in the UPUA in various capacities. She no longer holds a position.)

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