UPUA Officially Opposes Lord Resolution to Reinvestigate Freeh Report
The latest student government saga started two weeks ago when the UPUA voted to hold a closed committee meeting as a means to discuss Al Lord’s Board of Trustees resolution. For the uninitiated, Lord has sponsored a resolution that would call on Penn State to reinvestigate the Freeh Report’s conclusions.
The UPUA sparked some controversy about transparency when it held a closed meeting last week, which led to Resolution 11-09: Opposition to the Reinvestigation of the Freeh Report. That legislation hit the floor on Wednesday night at the weekly assembly meeting and prompted some serious debate among representatives. The resolution essentially acknowledges that there are inaccuracies within the Freeh Report — it says that it may have made “broad conclusions” — while also urging the board to continue moving away from the scandal by declining to review the report.
Following a lengthy discussion on a proposed amendment to the resolution, At-Large Representative Melissa McCleery motioned to table the legislation indefinitely. In other words, the assembly would agree not to vote on the resolution now or at any point in the future.
“Voting on this engages us in a level of board politics that I am not comfortable with,” McCleery said.
Some representatives, like Meghan O’Brien, agreed with McCleery and said that students are simply uninterested in the issue.
“We had a highly publicized event where students could come to express their opinions on Al Lord’s resolution,” O’Brien said. “No one showed up. I have no reason to believe that this is something we should be voting on and I can’t rise in support of it on behalf of the student body.”
Smeal representative Noel Purcell also supported McCleery’s motion, but for different reasons. Purcell said that he believes Lord is simply pandering to the constituents that elected him (in other orders, PS4RS) and he refused to support that.
Speaker John Wortman, on the other hand, was staunchly opposed to the motion to table the legislation. Wortman said that he believes the organization would be doing a disservice to the student body by not voting on the resolution. He argued that tabling the resolution would only act to further the idea that UPUA does nothing.
The motion to table the bill failed 26-10 before the resolution itself passed by a tightly-contested vote of 21-15. It’s worth noting that most of the dissent seemed to do with the disagreement over whether this advocacy fell within UPUA’s purview, not with the actual contents of the Lord resolution.
Here’s a recap of the rest of the night’s events:
Resolution 10-09 — Support for Board of Trustees Governance Package:
This resolution acts to support the “A+” package that was recommended by the Governance Committee as a potential restructuring of the Board of Trustees. The governance reform package is one of five that were on the table, and is essentially a compromise of all the proposals. Well, at least a compromise in that everyone who asked for a board seat seemed to get one.
“This is the most inclusive plan and it’s a compromise between all of them, which is good,” said Vice President Emily McDonald. “It doesn’t take anything away, we’re only adding and making the board better.”
This particular package would form a board of 33 voting members, an increase from the current 30 members. It also includes a codified student trustee and a student-driven process to elect that trustee, for which is something UPUA has been fighting for some time. Indeed, that aspect of the resolution can be viewed as one of UPUA’s greatest accomplishments in its nine year history.
At-Large Representative Jon Garfield presented an amendment that would rework the resolution to specifically support the package’s inclusion of a student trustee and faculty trustee, without supporting the entire package.
“I have no huge qualms with this act as a whole, but as student representatives I think we should make it clear that we’re supporting the student trustee,” Garfield said. “If we’re going to be supporting something, I would rather that we support specific parts of the package rather than the whole thing as advocates for the students.”
That amendment failed with a swift 20-8 vote. The resolution itself passed 33-3.
Resolution 12-09 — Student Activity Fee Restructuring:
The three major student governments — UPUA, CCSG, and GPSA — drafted a proposal separating the University Park student activity fee from the commonwealth campus fee “in order to effectively determine funding levels based on the varying populations and needs of the Penn State University locations.”
The Student Activity Fee Board will vote on the restructuring on Friday. The proposal aims to form three tiers or fee levels, up from the current two tiers. The board would vote on one tier solely considering the University Park campus. The other two would be voted on solely considering branch, which can choose from the the two tiers based on needs.
As it stands now, University Park’s activity fee is considered “Tier 1” along with the larger branch campuses. This occasionally creates a problem when it comes time to vote on activity fee increases, as the Student Activity Fee Board must consider the needs of branch campuses when determining the University Park fee. Obviously, University Park has vastly different needs and resources than Penn State’s other campuses, so this is a step in the right direction for activity fee reform.
The resolution passed unanimously.
Resolution 13-09 — Support of Alcohol Policy Reform:
In short, this recommends a change to the campus alcohol policy that would allow 21+ students to drink at their places of residence. Seems like common sense, but Penn State’s dry campus policy has been in effect for several years now. Whether the administration will take note of this stance is a different story.
It passed unanimously.
Several other things worth noting from executive reports:
- The Facilities Fee Advisory Committee voted to move around some funds to pay for the HUB. It authorized moving funds from the IM building project, which is under budget, to the HUB expansion, which is over budget. The entire HUB expansion is still on track to be completed by March 2015.
- UPUA is sponsoring a townhall with President Barron on November 10. Details to come.
And last but not least…
UPUA Roll Call Rules:
If you’ve made it to a UPUA meeting, you’ve likely noticed Internal Development Chair Ryan Belz, mainly because he wears orange every day and answers to his name in roll call with a long, drawn-out, “Thaaaaattt’sss meeee!” If you listen closely, you can hear the barely audible sound of eyes rolling around the room.
On Wednesday night, McDonald gave the assembly a laundry list of ways to speed up meetings. The most notable item on the list? That “the correct response to your name in the roll call is, ‘Here.'”
It was truly an iconic night.