UPUA met last night in 302 HUB to pass three pieces of legislation, agreeing to co-sponsor Great Debate, fund exam preparation books for the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam, and support loan forgiveness programs in Pennsylvania.
The meeting began with a presentation from Dr. Joe Salem, Associate Dean for Learning in the Undergraduate Services and Commonwealth Campus Libraries. Salem spoke to the assembly about open educational resources, including the Open Textbook Network the university libraries recently joined. An implementation team will meet for the first time today to work on options to help students save money on course materials.
President Terry Ford discussed a Ford-Jordan platform college affordability initiative during his report, explaining they’re working with Development and Alumni Relations to develop a relationship with donors who could create an endowment fund. The interest of the fund would go to freeze tuition for qualifying low-income students during the four years they attend Penn State.
He also said the university is discussing plans to expand break housing for international students who could be affected by President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration. “[The Executive Order] is not currently in effect, but you never know what might happen in the future, especially in spring break and summer break,” Ford said. He gave much of the credit on this initiative to students outside of UPUA who are passionate about taking action to help students affected by the Order.
At a Borough Breakfast Friday, Ford said attendees discussed the Borough’s Property Maintenance Code as well as an ordinance on party registration that the Borough Council promises is coming this semester. “I am confident I’ll be opposed to any sort of party registration ordinance,” Ford said, adding that UPUA is willing to work with Council on something to ensure safety “that does not perhaps unconstitutionally restrict our students’ rights.”
Ford, of course, also talked about the Student Fee Board, which will have its second official meeting Friday morning. “This is especially exciting because at this meeting we will be voting on the CAPS proposal,” Ford said, confirming he will be voting ‘yes’ and expects other UPUA representatives will likely follow suit.
“President Barron emailed us earlier this week about how much his office will be giving to match the student fee board contribution, and I can tell you that it is quite substantial,” Ford said. “That will be released in the media tomorrow morning, so be on the look out for that.”
Ford closed with a brief plug for students to register in State College for the May 16 primary election. Last weekend, he spoke at the annual State of State conference on the dismal student turnout in local elections, detailing why students should vote for Borough Council because of how much the Council truly does affect student life.
“As some of you may know, I am not a Democrat, but I will be registering as one for May 2017,” Ford said. “You want to be able to vote in the election that makes the most difference, and I think that’s the democratic primary.”
Representative Isaac Will reported on behalf of Borough Liaison Morgon Goranson, saying a verdict on Skulls appealing the zoning of the high rise planned for former Canyon location should be coming soon. The Borough will also be looking into how these new buildings, including another that could be in the works for the intersection of College Ave. and Atherton St., will affect traffic for vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians downtown.
After a brief caucus breakout, the Assembly sped through three pieces of legislation without any opposition. Here’s what you should know about each of them.
Bill 27-11, Great Debate Co-Sponsor
This bill commits UPUA to contribute $8,000 to Great Debate, an annual event organized by Penn State’s chapters of the College Democrats and College Republicans. This year’s speakers have not yet been announced, as Representative Johnna Purcell said contracts are still being negotiated. She promised we won’t need to search Wikipedia to figure out who’s coming — these guests are household names. The bill passed 32-0-1.
Bill 28-11, Funding of Fundamentals of Engineering Exam Preparation Books
Engineering students are required to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam in order to become licensed Professional Engineers so they can consult, teach, serve in government, or be responsible for plans in the field. This bill commits UPUA to purchasing 50 preparation books for this exam to be distributed alongside the other exam books UPUA provides for students during its Test Prep Week. At a 50 percent discount for buying in bulk, this will cost UPUA $625 total. The bill passed unanimously.
Resolution 38-11, Support for Loan Forgiveness Programs in Pennsylvania
State Representative Aaron Kaufer sponsored House Bill 120 to the Education Committee in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. This bill would “establish the Loan Forgiveness for Counselors Program within the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency and provide for powers and duties of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency,” according to the resolution. Members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly hope to encourage students to enter the counseling field to help combat the opioid crisis in Pennsylvania. This resolution commits UPUA to helping advocate for this bill and encourages those who attend Penn State Capital Day on March 22 to do the same if the bill is not passed by then. The resolution passed unanimously.
In other news, Chief Justice Eric Love said 65 people attended UPUA election information sessions this week. Based on last year’s numbers, he expects around 40 of those attendees to run for office next month.
Love also put a brief plug of his own in for his former professor and supervisor Lori Bedell, who he said will also be running for Borough Council this year. “Am I screaming?” he asked. “I’m sorry.” (Editor’s Note: He was screaming.)
The meeting adjourned at 9:17 p.m.