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UPUA Meets For The Final Time This Semester

The University Park Undergraduate Association’s tenth assembly met for the final time this semester on Wednesday night in the HUB.

After the meeting was called to order there were two additions to the evening’s agenda. The first was Bill 16-10, legislative outreach testimonial booklets, and Resolution 26-10, the UPUA support of President Barron’s statement on hate and intolerance. After the additions to the agenda were approved, one student (finally!) showed up for open student forum.

The student brought up retired Professor Frank Clemente, who was accused by Greenpeace of being an “academic-for-hire” for the fossil fuel industry. The student told UPUA it should encourage the university to investigate further into his funded research and see if he was influenced in any other ways. He then sat through the entire meeting, which lasted three hours.

Next up, the assembly heard two special presentations. The first was from Ryan Ahn of the Tea Institute. He spoke to the assembly for 10 minutes about what the Tea Institute does and the role it plays in the community. The second presentation was from officers of the Association of Residence Hall Students. After they introduced themselves, the officers informed the assembly of a number of upcoming initiatives like the Race Against Racism in the fall and a significant push to increase campus and residence hall safety.

President Emily McDonald started her weekly report by talking about diversity. She started off by noting President Eric Barron’s letter and the incident of racial discrimination over the weekend. “I encourage all of you to dig deep and think how we as the UPUA can lead this charge,” she said. “Over break think about what we can do to be the change we want to see at our university.”

Vice President Terry Ford gave his weekly report following President McDonald. He started off by talking about a meeting with senior administrators where they went over a number of issues. Notably, in conversation with GPSA, UPUA hopes to establish a student fee committee. He also gave his weekly update on the bike lane program, which has received bids from seven companies to complete the project. He mentioned there are concerns with the initiative, but they’re still looking to implement a mandatory safety program for students with bikes.

The liaison reports were up next and borough presented first. Borough liaison Sean Bengali gave an update on the ongoing issue of street lighting downtown and additional security cameras. He also read a copy of a proposed book, “Lion Guide,” about the borough of State College that is being looked at to possibly distribute to freshmen and new borough residents.

After a caucus breakout, the assembly tackled the new business on the agenda.

First up was appointing the chair of the facilities committee. Alex Shockley, current vice chair of the facilities committee, was recommended immediately. When no one else was recommended, Shockley was given five minutes to speak to the assembly. “You don’t run for this position for yourself, you run for it because you want to better student life at Penn State,” he said.

Adam Terragnoli, former chair of the facilities committee who announced he was resigning last week, spoke highly of Shockley before he called the vote to question. Shockley was ultimately selected with a vote of 34-2.

Ryan Valencia presented Bill 15-10, Healthcare Awareness Week, to the assembly. He started by saying “no matter what side of the aisle you’re on” before delving in to the bill itself. The bill proposed UPUA spending $186.70 to purchase 200 educational brochures on student’s healthcare options and 300 lollipops.

While the lollipops would only cost $14.32, members of the assembly were concerned since there was a limited number of brochures available and if students only take a brochure to get a lollipop then students who need the brochures won’t get them.

Representative Abby Baker moved to amend the legislation and strike lollipops from the proposal, and was immediately met with an objection. “I understand the need to incentive but my concern is we have a limited number of brochures and we want them to go to students who need to understand the healthcare options,” she said. Representative Darian Gist also agreed lollipops should be removed from the legislation. Moreover, Representative Alexandra Levantis, who helped draft the legislation, also agreed lollipops should be removed.

The amendment to the legislation failed with a vote of 6-31, meaning lollipops will be handed out with the brochures. The bill itself ultimately passed unanimously.

Bill 16-10, legislative outreach testimonial booklets, was presented next. The legislation proposes a booklet that will profile student leaders to discuss pertinent issues, which has been done in the past.

Next, Andrew Ahr presented Resolution 24-10, support of online textbook renewal for university libraries. The legislation would change the libraries current course reserve system. The libraries current system allows students to check out a course textbook for up to two hours at a time, if this is not enough time students can renew their books every two hours at the library reserves desk. However, if a student does renew or return the book within the two hour window then they will be fined a late fee of $1/hour with a maximum of $100.

The legislation would support making this system virtual so students can renew books online. It passed unanimously with no discussion.

Citing one of President Barron’s six initiatives, affordability, Resolution 25-10, support for scholarship database, was presented to the assembly. The resolution would create a centralized scholarship database for Penn State students. “Our constituents feel that the disorganized dissemination of financial aid information inhibits students from seeking necessary support,” the legislation read. It passed unanimously.

The last piece of new business was Resolution 26-10, the UPUA support of President Barron’s statement on hate and intolerance. Representative Terragnoli moved to strike the beginning of line four, “in light of recent events around campus” citing the student this weekend is innocent until proven guilty. However, after clarification the student admitted what he did to police and the line wasn’t only referring to that incident, he rescinded. The vote was done by individual roll call and ultimately passed unanimously.

President McDonald noted one thing she forgot in her report that she noted was “monumental” and indeed it was. Six percent of the university’s bookstore profits go back to the university and that money hasn’t been touched since 2009. The money is being used by the Facilities Fee Advisory Committee, of which President McDonald is a co-chair. The facilities fee is a flat rate charged to each student every semester and it goes in to one pot for student government reps to control and use on projects on campus.

In her committee report, Speaker Emily Miller told the assembly she thinks this has been a successful semester. She noted that Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims sent an email complimenting the assembly for its work thus far. “Next semester is going to look a little different in terms of expectations and there’s much room for improvement,” she said. “When we get back, that’s it.”

Looking back on the tenth’s assembly semester, it was far from robust. And while the school year is halfway over, the assembly’s term is more than two-thirds complete as elections for the upcoming year will take place next semester.

The majority of the semester saw much of the same for UPUA, as the bulk of bills and resolutions passed were things that are done every year or merely in support of a university initiative (which was the case three times tonight). There were a few interesting initiatives throughout the semester, like the umbrella rental system and the professional attire closet for students.

But with the way things are going right now the tenth assembly won’t have a whole lot to hang its hat on.

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