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UPUA Discusses $6 Student Activity Fee Increase

UPUA gathered in the HUB Wednesday night for its first meeting of the semester, and though new business was light, a couple important issues were discussed including CAPS funding and a potential increase of the Student Activity Fee. Both discussions were tangential to UPUA’s authority, but nevertheless, opinions were asked for and heard.

Of note, UPAC Chair Jesse Scott announced his proposal to raise the Student Activity fee by $6, which will be considered by the Student Activity Fee Board at its meeting next Friday. The fee began in 1996 at $25, but through natural increases to meet inflation and less-natural jumps to meet demand, the fee has skyrocketed to $87. This proposal would mark the biggest increase of the fee since the 2006-2007 academic year. Of that $6, $1 would automatically go to student legal services, with the rest contributing to the collective pot.

“If my projections are correct, $6 would allow us to meet the increased demand for UPAC funding,” Scott said. “We’ve allocated more than we’ve taken in over the last few years, but have been able to get by using carryover reserve funding. That buffer is almost gone.”

The student activity fee, which is paid by every student as part of tuition, is set annually by the Student Activity Fee Board and about 2/3 is dished out to requesting student groups by UPAC. Stupidly enough, the board is made up of mostly administrators and students from other campuses (more on that insanity here) but UPUA chair Anthony Panichelli and President Katelyn Mullen control 2 of the 13 votes. Both pledged to put aside their personal opinions and listen to the assembly when casting their votes next Friday.

Unfortunately, the Assembly seemed initially apathetic to the situation, asking Scott questions relating to process instead of actually giving opinions. Rep. Kevin Horne (also an Onward State editor) and Rep. Chase Englund were the only two members to actually offer opinions, and both were opposed to the increase — Horne more vociferously than Englund.

“Of course, the demand for free money is always going to be high,” Horne said. “The fee could be $200 and I guarantee our student groups could find enough stuff to spend it on. I’m just worried about this thing getting out of control — it’s essentially a hidden fee.”

The Student Activity Fee Board will meet next Friday to consider the increase, and we’ll be sure to offer full coverage at that time.

Director of Counseling and Physiological Services Dr. Dennis Heitzmann also gave a special presentation, asking for UPUA’s support in acquiring additional funding for the center. CAPS provides short-term psychological services for students, but is currently grossly understaffed and is finding itself turning away students or outsourcing them to practices downtown. CAPS needs both more staff to help all of the students at University Park and a larger space, though Heitsmann says is secondary to the staffing issue. You might remember that additional CAPS funding was one of the losing Senior Class Gift ideas; but hey, at least we’ll have nice foliage in the HUB!

“It’s probably no secret that we feel we’re short staffed and underfunded,” Heitzmann told the assembly. Usually, by October the CAPS waiting list is already up to 100 students. Annually about 3,200 students seek CAPS help. The current staff at the center cannot possibly accommodate all of these students and often students are referred to other counselors in the community. Unfortunately, by mid-November, private psychological services in the downtown State College community also fill up and access to counseling both in CAPS and community-wide becomes severely limited.

Heitzmann and his team are currently in the process of making a funding pitch to the Office of Student Affairs. He proposed a UPUA resolution supporting the additional finding, something he believes will “push it over the edge” in the eyes of Old Main. It’s a tough sell as tuition continues to rise above the rate of inflation almost every year and the university tries to tighten its belt, but CAPS is an essential service and one that probably deserves more bandwidth than its currently afforded. Hopefully Student Affairs will consider a reasonable funding option to ensure students are properly served.

The new business was entirely internal, as several new representatives were sworn in and Rep. Anand Ganjam was unanimously elected as Student Life Chair following the resignation of Caleb Fernandez from that position.

Suit of the Week

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Winner: College of Communications Rep. Ryan Belz

Like always, Rep. Belz killed it tonight — for better or for worse. He strutted into 302 HUB rocking orange from head to toe, demanding to be seen. The outfit was alarmingly similar to Jim Carey’s in Dumb and Dumber. Where Rep. Belz acquired this suit is a mystery, though some speculated that it was a holiday gift. If so, it was not just a gift to Rep. Belz but to all of mankind.

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