It’s One Step Forward, Two Steps Back for UPUA
It appeared that UPUA had finally broken its much-maligned mold that had constrained the organization and its public perception for so long. When confronted with the opportunity to send $7,000 Movin’ On’s way, the assembly voted against it, echoing in a new and long overdue message of fiscal responsibility. This was a landmark vote, of course, for many reasons — mostly because it’s hard to remember a time when UPUA didn’t blindly throw money at something just because they had room in the budget.
The general spirit during and after last meeting was that UPUA had finally put its irresponsible spending habits to rest; there would be more of a focus on internal initiatives and issue advocacy. Of course, with UPUA, the organization can’t seem to help itself from running in circles time and time again in a constant search for an identity. At last night’s meeting, four pieces of legislation were discussed and at least two had serious flaws that once again showed UPUA fails to understand the scope of what a student government should (or shouldn’t) do.
But before we talk new business, Barry Bram gave a special presentation regarding the upcoming Penn State Values and Culture Survey.
The survey, which is set to go out to all faculty, students, and administrators on October 29 hopes to gauge Penn State’s input on its culture. Several UPUA representatives raised concerns that there was no real culture problem at Penn State, but Bram noted that this was something Penn State planned to do regardless of the Freeh Report. When asked about the costs of the survey, Bram stumbled with the question couldn’t provide a number for the assembly.
After a brief report from President Katelyn Mullen, the assembly moved into the new business for the evening:
Bill 08-08: Mental Health & Wellness Week 2013
At its core, this bill — co-sponsored by Caleb Fernandez, Anand Ganjam, and Katie Tully — has the right intentions. Penn State’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provided help to more than 3,200 students last year, a number that is expected to increase this year. The bill lays out a plan for Mental Health & Wellness Week (MH&WW), which will take place the week of October 21. There are plans for relaxation rooms, a TED talk, and a speech from a a Dove “Real Beauty” model.
UPUA voted, almost unflinchingly, to spend $1,526 on the event and participate as one of the many co-sponsors, including $800 for a balloonist to set up in the HUB for four hours on one day of the week. The bill also include $220 for 1,000 bracelets that say “Mental Health. Let’s talk about it.” and $506 for a HUB room rental for an event.
Not content with immediately backpedaling on last week’s progress, Rep. Kevin Horne, also an Onward State editor, immediately moved to strike the $800 from the bill.
“I can’t in good faith spend $800 on balloon animals,” noted Rep. Horne.
However, co-sponsor and Student Life Chair Caleb Fernandez adamantly believed the balloons were essential for the promotion of the event.
“If you see people with balloon animals, you’re going to want to know where the heck they got it,” Fernandez said.
The assembly went back on forth on the amendment for several minutes, until someone finally calculated that each balloon would cost $10, using the estimate that the balloonist would be able to make 80 balloons — one every three minutes — during his shift. Many representatives pointed out that this was obviously an extremely inefficient way to use $800.
After a lengthy debate, Rep. Horne’s amendment failed 14-29.
There’s one huge issue that I have with this vote. First, it pretty much eliminates any progress UPUA made last week when they refused to contribute to Movin’ On. It initially appeared that UPUA withheld funding from Movin’ On because of principle; it turns out they only denied funding because of the attached number. The difference between $7,000 and $800 shouldn’t be the deciding factor, as any unnecessary funding is still unnecessary funding. UPUA needs to focus on the core question at hand: Should a student government be spending part of its budget on balloon animals or similar gimmicks?
“We’re college students, not five year olds. I don’t think this will be as effective as you all think it will be,” said Rep. Horne.
After the amendment failed, the bill passed moments later 41-2-0 with Rep. Horne and College of Communications Rep. Ryan Belz as the only dissenters.
Sources also tell us that the balloons will be pink elephants.
Resolution 10-08: Mayoral Positions and Endorsements of Issues
With the municipal elections on November 5, this resolution outlines the endorsements of the following mayoral positions:
- Regular meetings between the mayor and members of the Penn State community
- Reduced actions for State Patty’s Day
- A tenant-landlord mediation service
- A permanent voting student position on the Borough Council
- Proper representation for all residents in the Borough
- A point system that holds all individual fraternity members accountable for their actions, and not the fraternity itself.
It also outlined several key positions of Mayor Elizabeth Goreham and challenger Ron Madrid to make a nifty voting guide for anyone who cares to look at it.
The resolution passed unanimously.
Resolution 11-08: Culture Awareness Opinion
Again, a bill with all the right intentions that wasn’t properly thought through by the UPUA powers that be.
Here’s the entire text under the recommended course of action section:
- “The UPUA recommends the undergraduate student body at University Park be aware of their actions and dress during the month of October and throughout the rest of the academic year. The UPUA herby charges the Department of Communications with the dissemination of this resolution through all appropriate channels of the assoication.”
Okay. I’m aware — whatever that means. So now what?
Sure, the heart of Resolution 11-08 is in the right place. But where are the recommended courses of action? What will UPUA do to actually ensure students are more aware of the acceptable cultural standards for Halloween costumes?
Apparently a press release on the UPUA website that maybe 20 people will see is good enough. Still, the resolution passed 37-4-0.
Resolution 12-08: Zipcar Endorsement
Just recently, the State College Borough and UPUA worked to bring the carsharing service zipcar to students and residents. This resolution is just an endorsement of this service. Unfortunately, poor wording in the legislation failed to outline an actual plan to promote zipcars, so the resolution was recommitted back to the Facilities committee.
The revised resolution should be ready to go in a couple weeks.
Tie of the week: Julius Halstead
Obviously, it’s very hard to beat a bow tie when it comes to having the best tie in UPUA. I like Halstead’s use of the simple black bow tie with his whole outfit, as it brings the entire ensemble together. Coupled with the fact that no other UPUA representative brought their best tie game this week, going with Halstead was a no-brainer.
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“As we work together to make the impact as least disruptive as possible to our students and employees, we strongly urge Congress and the president to end this impasse.”
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