Though UPUA encourages students to attend its meeting and speak at its open student forum every week, individuals seldom come out. It usually takes a significant or controversial event or legislation to draw attendance.
Such was the case last night, when students packed 302 HUB advocating for significant action from the student government about a resolution supporting President Barron’s statement on Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration.
The first student to speak was Anthony Zarzycki, who urged members of the assembly to vote for the resolution and said a more vigorous piece of legislation was shot down because it was “too political.”
Other students to come forward included Fanta Condé, Pasma Ayad (both of whom, along with Zarzycki, organized Sunday’s demonstration), and Benjamin Dennis. Each asked the assembly, some more strongly than others, to pass the legislation.
“[Housing] is a basic human need,” Condé said. “It is a necessity to know where you are sleeping today, and tomorrow, and next month. We are vehemently demanding that UPUA goes forward with the housing of the international students here.”
The resolution the students referenced, “Support of President Barron’s Statement and Call for Further Action,” came to the floor later in the meeting and does essentially what the title suggests.
“We want to send messages of solidarity and support,” At-Large Rep Nathan Pentz, one of the resolution’s co-sponsors, said. “I was very pleased to see President Barron made a statement on it. We wish to stand with him and stand as the UPUA.”
The legislation was brought up by two-thirds vote because of the quick approach of spring break as well as a fear that additional executive orders could be passed. Typically, passing such a resolution would be a slow process, but members of the assembly felt time was of the essence here. The resolution was passed unanimously after less discussion than anticipated, though an amendment was added stating UPUA’s “further action” may include increased on-campus break housing for impacted international students.
“I want to let you know that your voice was heard tonight,” Speaker Alex Shockley said to those who presented during open student forum and the entire assembly. “Just because we pass this stance doesn’t mean it will happen, but we’ll try our best.”
Student voice is incredibly important to UPUA — after all, it advocates for the undergraduate population — but technically it’s nothing more than a voice itself. As much as its members may want to, UPUA cannot force the administration to provide housing for international students over spring break.
Some students are upset that the resolution didn’t offer a plan for housing international students who are impacted by the executive order, but UPUA doesn’t have the power to open the dorms for them — all it can do is advocate for that. UPUA is doing the most it can by passing the resolution, short of opening its office and allowing students to stay inside over break.
Speaker Shockley said later Wednesday night that Housing and Food Services, which organizes break access housing, is looking into providing something for students. But the logistics of securing additional rooms and RAs/staff members could pose a challenge. He said this issue falls under President Barron and Damon Sims of Student Affairs.
“I can almost guarantee something will be done,” Shockley said. “It’s just logistics at this point in time. I hope, and this is something that [UPUA] will push for, that it’s affordable.” He mentioned too that of the international students who choose to head home for break, many plane tickets are non-refundable and pretty expensive, so keeping the options manageable will be an important factor.
A special presentation by Carlos Wiley, the Director of the Paul Robeson Cultural Center, preceded President Ford and Vice President Jordan’s reports. Ford, whose report focused mainly on the Student Fee Board, said he and other members of the board are waiting for President Barron to clarify how much he’ll be able to contribute to University Park CAPS versus the Commonwealth campuses so the Student Fee Board can appropriately assess what CAPS will need from it.
Ford also swore in new At-Large Representative Jake Springer, who was confirmed by a vote of 33-2. The rest of the legislation the assembly saw was less potentially contentious than the resolution supporting Barron’s statement but would be huge if accomplished.
The first, Resolution 33-11, “Call for Increased Staffing in Penn State’s Office of Emergency Management,” asks the Office of Finance and Business to hire additional emergency management employees to supplement the important work that currently only two individuals handle at University Park. The Office of Emergency Management handles everything from fire to leaks to threats to tornadoes, which is a lot for just two people to look out for 46,000 students plus faculty and staff. The resolution passed unanimously.
The next resolution was 34-11, “Call for Revision of State College Residential Street Light Policy,” asks the Borough to again explore adding more lighting downtown, something that has been shot down by Borough Council before by some members who thought students might “coalesce like bugs” around these streetlights and cause a disturbance. Representatives cited not only increased crime on dimly lit alleys and streets but also hazards like ice. This resolution also passed unanimously but it’s possible that it might not see Borough Council action until next fall.
Resolution 35-11, “Recognition of House Resolution 40: Designation of January as Financial Aid Awareness Month,” is pretty well explained by its title. It too passed unanimously.
Standing Chief Justice Reilly Ebbs announced the budget for UPUA elections — $3068 — and stated that the number of points it will take to result in a disqualification will be 10. You can read more about the updated elections code in last week’s recap. The meeting was adjourned at 9:47 p.m.
Comments for the Good of the Readers: If you were caught up in this week’s meeting you probably missed the men’s basketball team’s heartbreaking triple-OT loss to Indiana. Please, Penn State Men’s Basketball, stop getting in close games after 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. Watching a heartbreaking game like last night’s is not supposed to be done on Twitter.