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UPUA Supports $2 Increase In Student Activity Fee

If you told me when I woke up on Wednesday morning that I would hear a debate over the easiness of using a Step ‘N Pull hands-free bathroom door opener, I would have told you that’s exactly what I expected from last night’s UPUA general assembly meeting.

Resolution 20-09, which calls on the Facilities Fee Advisory Committee to work on installing hands-free restroom openers throughout campus, hit the floor at Wednesday’s meeting. As a strong proponent of these handless door openers, I was eager to see the assembly unilaterally support this legislation, though it was a pipe dream.

“While we are not purchasing them, I think it’s a complete waste to spend $30 on these and they’re not actually that easy to utilize,” College of Communications Representative Ryan Belz said.

Borough Council Representative Jon Garfield echoed that sentiment, explaining that his lack of coordination and athleticism renders the Step ‘N Pull useless. As any good journalist would do, I darted to the third-floor HUB men’s bathroom after the meeting’s conclusion.

As my elementary school recreational sports coaches can confirm, I am legitimately and completely inept when it comes to anything involving coordination or athleticism. Basketball referees would call nonexistent fouls to try and get me a couple points, although I missed the free throws.

But I digress. The point is that I tested out the hands-free opener multiple times before concluding that it’s extremely easy to use. And with that, I’m glad to report that the resolution passed with a vote of 28-7.

Here’s the breakdown of the rest of last night’s UPUA assembly meeting:

Resolution 19-09 — Stance on the 2015-16 Student Activity Fee Level:

This was likely the most controversial piece of legislation on the floor Wednesday, as the assembly’s vote would charge President Anand Ganjam with voting on its behalf at the coming Student Activity Fee Board meeting, which is set to take place on Friday. The legislation called for supporting a $2 increase in the fee, though amendments arose both calling for a $3 increase and no increase at all.

I’m in favor of letting UPAC run out of money early,” said Belz, who asked that the fee be lowered to zero. Belz also advocated for a cutback on new student organizations, which seems like a bad idea at first glance and is still a bad idea every time you look at it after that.

Representatives Mike Mancini and Noel Purcell both explained to the assembly that the Consumer Price Index’s forecast for inflation is likely an underestimation because of low fuel costs, economic collapses in foreign nations, and an unrealistically strong American dollar. The CPI is currently used to take inflation into consideration when evaluating the fee.

“This has happened for all four years I’ve been here where this argument comes up in the spring,” Ganjam said. “My opinion here is that yes, enough is enough, but we need to do it the right way. Eventually, fighting for no increase in the fee has to happen, but we have to do it in a way that doesn’t sever too many student organizations.”

Freshman Representative Alex Shockley urged his colleagues not to blame the University Park Allocation Committee for the high costs associated with Penn State. He said that instead of defunding UPAC and complaining about a $2 raise in a fee that is less than a hundred dollars, UPUA should go to the  administration to see how they can cut tuition.

Eventually, the resolution passed in support of a $2 increase by a vote of 31-4.

Policy 09-08 — Establishment of Commission on Student Fees:

This policy moves to form a commission including the UPUA, CCSG, and GPSA in order to research and analyze student fees at Penn State. As Student Life Chair Shannon Rafferty said, this type of commission exists at many of Penn State’s peer institutions, allowing for student voices to be heard. One potential idea for a future addition includes a mental health fee that would help fund Penn State’s CAPS program.

The policy passed with a vote of 34-1.

Resolution 21-09 — Support of the General Education Taskforce Proposal:

The final piece of legislation on the agenda aimed to support the proposal of a task force created in 2009 and charged with renewing the university’s General Education program. The assembly voted 34-1 in favor of supporting the innovative new GenEd proposal.

That’s all for now. We’ll be back with more student government fun in a week.

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About the Author

Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a StateCollege.com reporter and Onward State's Managing Editor Emeritus. You can find him at the Phyrst more nights than not. If he had to pick a last meal, Zach would go for a medium-rare New York strip steak with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a cold BrewDog Punk IPA. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected] or on Twitter at @theZachBerger.

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