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The End of an Era: UPUA’s 6th Assembly

I’ve been attending the weekly UPUA General Assembly meetings for awhile now, and I’ve never seen anything quite like what happened last night.

Resolution 34-06, which allocates $6,800 to promote the April 17-20 “Sexual Assault Awareness Week.” had received quite a bit of press leading up the meeting, and created more student interest than is typical for most UPUA legislation. Every UPUA meeting opens up with roll call followed by an open student forum. While typically just a procedural act that no student utilizes, this night was different. The new student group Only With Consent, along with a spattering of other students, filled the gallery for an opportunity to speak in favor of the bill.

One by one, the students filed up to the microphone to make their case to the assembly. Some remarks were brief, others long and impassioned, but through it all, we learned just how emotionally charged the issue of sexual abuse is.

The enthusiasm shown by the student activists was touching, but I question whether or not they knew about the “unanimous nature” of the UPUA. The resolution passed unanimously 33-0, and likely would have seen the same support either way.

The resolution itself comes at a price of $6,800, with $6,390 of that money being used to purchase 1,500 t-shirts to support sexual abuse awareness. The remaining $410 is being used for banners and posters to advertise for the event.

As Academic Affairs Chairman John Zang noted, it’s not a perfect bill. “I’m concerned about how much there is a need to raise awareness,” although he stipulated, “I just want it to do more.” And Zang is right.

There is not a more urgent problem at Penn State right now than sexual abuse. I’m not talking about Jerry Sandusky, but rather the astounding number of rapes that are committed in State College every year. The Daily Collegian reported last week on three rapes that have occurred downtown to young women over the last couple years.

But I question whether or not “awareness” is the main problem. What we need are programs to help prevent sexual abuse to go along with awareness. Chair Zang mentioned the CAPS program and potential expansion of security escort services. Perhaps it’s fitting that the last major piece of legislation for 6th Assembly deals with promotion instead of implementation — a well-documented flaw that has characterized the assembly all year.

The resolution had only the best intentions, and is a worthy initiative. I just regret that 94% of the funds are being used for t-shirts instead of creating helpful programs internally for women who need them. Last week, UPUA spent $16,900 on a stage. Imagine what could be done for women suffering from sexual abuse with that kind of money — and I’m not just talking about t-shirts. Either way, I’m glad UPUA showed interest in such an important issue.

Four other bills passed last night, unanimously of course:

  • Policy 14-06: Striking Committee names from Constitution – It does just what it says; UPUA committee names are now listed in the bylaws instead of the constitution. What a relief.
  • Policy 15-06: Restructuring of Committees – This split up the Student Life & Diversity Committee (led by Chairwoman Katie Quinn) into two separate committees, that is, Student Life AND Diversity.
  • Resolution 35-06: Continued Work for Osmond Lounge – This resolution called for continued student involvement in the construction of the Osmond Study Lounge.
  • Resultion 36-06: State College Rezoning – UPUA urges the Borough Council to vote to rezone the property at Canyon Pizza to allow for more student housing above the establishment. Borough Council votes on April 2, and I’m sure UPUA’s support is going to be a big game-changer in the decision.

Following a short presentation from the One Heart Campaign, T.J. Bard delivered his final presidential address, which ended in a an emotion-filled standing ovation. “This year has taught me how to be a Penn Stater,” Bard said. “I hope that someday I am able to look back and know that in some capacity — big or small — I was able to make a difference at Penn State.”

And just like that, the 6th Assembly of the UPUA adjourned for the final time. The legacy they leave behind will be discussed in another post in the coming days, but even as a noted critic, the closing remarks from several outgoing representatives made it hard to stay composed.

It was only fitting that four-year UPUA veteran and Governmental Affairs Chairman Adam Boyer concluded the meeting with “God bless Penn State.”

T.J. Bard Tie Rating of the Week (5/5): They say it only takes one man to start a movement. It was only a few short months ago when I created the T.J. Bard Tie Rating of the Week feature for my UPUA posts. And now here we are, just a short time later, and President Bard leads off his final presidential address talking about his tie. “I know my tie and shirt combo is not the most exciting,” Bard said. “However, this was actually the outfit I wore for my first meeting in UPUA, and also the outfit I wore on election night, so I thought it was only fitting to wear it tonight as well.”

Through President Bard, we’ve seen the best and the worst of contemporary fashion. We’ve seen $4.99 K-Mart tie specials, and we’ve also seen perfect combinations fit to meet the President of the United States. But through it all, we’ve seen that only a simple tie can bring people together, start conversation, and make everyone just a little more interested in student government. And so it’s only fitting that on this day — this final day — I award a perfect rating. You see, it’s not so much about the tie, but the person wearing it. Every tie has a story. T.J. Bard told us his. What will your story be?

Elias Warren Quote of the Week: For the first time in as long as I can remember, Elias Warren didn’t say anything that made me smile (at least during the meeting). This was Representative Warren’s final meeting as the Smeal representative (he’s running for an At-Large position next year), so I imagine the loss for words was purely a result of regret that Smeal College of Business students are losing their fearless leader. Gone but never forgotten, as they say.

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About the Author

Kevin Horne

Kevin Horne was the editor of Onward State from 2012-2014 and currently holds the position of Managing Editor Emeritus, which is a fake title he made up. He graduated from Penn State with degrees journalism and political science in 2014 and is currently seeking his J.D. at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. A third generation Penn Stater from Williamsport, Pa., Kevin is also the president of the graduate student government. Email: [email protected]

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