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UPUA Assembly Divided By Four Pieces Of Legislation In Weekly Meeting

UPUA’s tenth assembly tackled four controversial pieces of legislation at its weekly Wednesday night meeting, which lasted almost two-and-a-half hours. The pieces of legislation, which included one bill and three resolutions, prompted heavy discussion within the general assembly, which raised concerns of hypocrisy.

Prior to open student forum, Representative Gist motioned to give the first speaker, student John Wortman, an extra five minutes to speak. Chair Valencia asked if Wortman’s topic of discussion was relevant enough to warrant extra time. Wortman replied that he would be speaking on Bill 05-10, “Red Cross Blood Drive Co-Sponsorship”, which was set to be discussed during the New Business portion of the meeting. Rep. Gist later revealed that she is good friends with Wortman.

Wortman proceeded to launch into a very heated speech in protest of the bill, saying that he was tired of hypocrisy within UPUA. Bill 05-10 proposed that UPUA partner with The Student Red Cross Club, who by FDA regulation cannot accept blood from men who have had sex with other men (MSM), those who were in England during the Mad Cow Disease scare, as well as many others, to kick-off the annual MSU-PSU Blood Challenge. UPUA wants to provide $1,000 for T-shirts that would be given to students who donate blood. Wortman was disgusted by the fact that gay students are required to pay a Student Activity Fee for events that they are not allowed to participate in, while UPUA wanted to pass a resolution that supported the LGBTQIA+ community at Penn State (Resolution 09-10 “Support of the LGBTQIA+ Community and National Coming Out Week”). “This body does not have the right to pass this legislation if they’re not willing to stand up and take the actual fight of standing up to discrimination on this campus,” Wortman said.

Nicole Sullivan, a representative from the Student Red Cross Club followed Wortman in the student forum. While Sullivan said she was not at liberty to speak on behalf of the Red Cross, she said that the Student Red Cross Club in no way discriminates towards any group of people and simply follows FDA regulations. She thanked UPUA for their past support and mentioned the club’s trouble with funding over the past few years. She reminded the assembly that the club’s goal is simply to help those in need by providing them with potentially life-saving blood.

After the open student forum, advocates from the Student Farm Initiative gave a special presentation about their goals to increase awareness about sustainability and the food system within the Penn State community. Vice President Hayly Hoch urged the assembly not only to get involved, but to press other students and administration to support the initiative. Members of the Student Farm Initiative will be on campus for World Food Day (Oct. 16th).

Following the special presentations were reports by President Emily McDonald, Vice President Terry Ford, and the liaisons. Besides President McDonald’s brief meeting with the Greek Life Task Force, there was not much to report.

Before the discussion of the legislation began, the Division of Undergraduate Studies representative and College of Nursing representatives were sworn in. Representative Steffen Blanco then introduced Bill 05-10, which created a stir among the assembly. While several representatives such as Rep. Gist were concerned with the discrimination associated with Red Cross in the past and the Bill’s correlation with Resolution 09-10, others were worried that the $1,000 for T-shirts would be a waste of money. Representative Abby Baker spoke about her own experience in Washington, D.C. this past spring, where the FDA discussed possibly lifting the ban on MSM blood donations, saying that she was in full support of the bill because it was completely independent from Resolution 09-10. The final comment was made by Panhellenic Rep. Bentram, who was a sorority sister and friend of Tally Sepot. Bentram said that if there was a chance that Sepot could have survived, she would have needed a lot of blood and would have been eternally grateful to the Red Cross for that. The bill passed 17-13-1, prompting Wortman to storm out of the room in anger.

The next piece of legislation and first resolution of the night was Resolution 07-10 “Recommendations for the Re-Authorization of the Higher Education Act,” in favor of reinstating year-round Pell Grants and supporting certain loan forgiveness programs. The resolution passed unanimously.

The next resolution stirred up even more lively conversation among assembly members. Resolution 08-10, “Opposition to the Safe Campus Act,” objected the Safe Campus Act, which limits an institution’s ability to take action or investigate reports of sexual assault. There was a long period of debate about whether it falls in the hands of police or in the hands of an institution to investigate and charge suspects with a crime. Rep. Gist again stood in strong opposition of the resolution, even going so far as to fire sharp comments at a representative who agreed with the resolution. The resolution finally passed 27-3.

Blanco then introduced the highly anticipated and final resolution to the assembly, Resolution 09-10, “Support of the LGBTQIA+ Community and National Coming Out Week.” Representatives, such as Rep. Garrett, wasted no time in bringing up the Red Cross Club bill and its correlation to Resolution 09-10, even though all who spoke were in favor of the resolution. For the final time, Rep. Gist spoke, this time targeting several of her peers.

“I think it’s disgraceful if you support this resolution and did not oppose this bill. You truly are a coward if you don’t fight for the LGBTQ community…I truly urge you to think about the type of person you are and do some soul-searching if you’re going to support this cause but not be willing to fight for them.”

So many comments concerning hypocrisy were thrown that Vice President Ford finally asked that any further commentary only be related to the resolution at hand. After noticeably fewer additional comments, the resolution passed unanimously.

After a night of fiery debate, the remainder of the meeting continued as normal, with a few laughs here and there. Speaker Miller urged members to attend Russell Gold’s lecture on “The Boom” next Monday, and Representative Terragnoli updated the assembly on the progress with charging stations on campus. The heavy meeting ended on the surprisingly lighter note at 10:30 p.m.

About the Author

Gabriela Stevenson

Gabriela is a junior majoring in print and digital journalism and Onward State's student life editor. She is from Norristown, PA, which she normally refers to as "30 minutes outside of Philadelphia" (she looked up the exact driving time). She enjoys Broadway musicals, neck pillows, and eating cereal at night. To contact Gabriela, e-mail her at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @GabiStevenson if you want to feel young again.

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