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UPUA Declines Support Of TEDxPSU, Approves Putting Mental Health Resources On Syllabi

The University Park Undergraduate Association met for its weekly meeting on Wednesday night in the HUB. The meeting was called to order and the agenda, which included a bill and three resolutions, was approved by the assembly.

The first item of new business was Bill 17-10, TEDxPSU funding. Representative Shawn Bengali presented the legislation to the assembly. “With TEDxPSU being a major event, it is a very costly endeavor with the estimated total cost being $67,464.36,” the bill reads. UPAC funded the majority of this cost, but there is still $26,211.14 remaining. This legislation will give $1,500 to help TEDxPSU cover remaining costs. There was some debate among the assembly because if UPUA gives $1,500 then UPAC will take away $1,500 because only 90 percent of an events budget can come from the student activities fee, which funds both UPUA and UPAC.

The difference between the money from UPUA and UPAC is what TEDxPSU could buy with the funds. With the money from UPAC, TEDxPSU could not buy badges, lanyards, or volunteer shirts but it could with the money from UPUA.

“I have a fundamental disagreement for funding mementos as part of our mission,” Chair Ryan Valencia said. “This is not the purpose of our organization.” He strongly discouraged the assembly towards funding this. He was also critical of the fact the total cost was only an estimate and TEDxPSU did not give the exact price for every line item.

Representative Bengali echoed what Chair Valencia said and apologized he did not know about the agreement with UPAC when he wrote the legislation. He informed the assembly he did not stand behind the legislation given the new information.

Schreyer Representative Zac Cohen and Movin’ On Liason Nikita Page spoke in support of the bill, citing reasons such as the importance of events like this on campus and putting UPUA’s name out there as a supporter.

Representative Aya Bseiso agreed with Cohen and Page and raised a motion to table the vote until next week, which failed with a vote of 14-16. With no further discussion on the bill, it moved to a vote that ultimately failed 7-24.

Next was Resolution 34-10, support of mental health resources on course syllabi. Representative Andrew Ahr presented the legislation, who cited one in four students have been diagnosed with or treated for a mental illness nationwide in the opening sentence of the resolution. The legislation passed unanimously.

With the passing of the resolution, the following language will be added to all course syllabi below the section on disability services:

The Pennsylvania State University is also committed to advancing the mental health and well-being of its students. If you or someone you know is feeling overwhelmed, depressed, and/or in need of support, services are available. For help, contact Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at (814) 863-0395 and during and after hours, on weekends and holidays, or through its counselors physically located in University Health Services (UHS). 

Finally, the assembly looked at Resolution 35-10, support of the reestablishment of Pennsylvania Association of State-related Students (PASS). “In December 2010, the undergraduate student governments of Lincoln University, Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Temple University founded PASS, in reaction to the Commonwealth’s spending cuts to higher education,” the legislation reads. “The purpose of PASS was to represent more than 100,000 students at state-related institutions to the legislature through advocacy and legislative outreach.” The resolution, which will reestablish PASS in light of recent state budget issues, passed unanimously.

Next up was Resolution #36-10, which was a call to action for students to take including a social media campaign and by writing letters. “This is something that has the potential to be really big so when you vote on this I encourage you to think of that,” President Emily McDonald said in her report. The resolution, which requires all representatives to retweet the tweet and have ten friends also retweet it, passed unanimously.

Speaker of the Assembly Emily Miller gave a special presentation on the general education update. Her presentation boiled down a 50-page Faculty Senate report. “What I did was compile what will be the major changes to the curriculum and that’s what I’ll go over,” she said. There were six recommendations from the general education task force, which were all ultimately accepted by the Faculty Senate. Miller went over recommendations five and six with the assembly.

“In term of this general education overhaul, I’ll be honest it’s not as intensive as I would have liked to have seen,” she said. “We advocated for some greater changes but they didn’t happen.”

Recommendation five now requires students to get a C or better in their GWS and GQ classes, where before a D counted as passing. Recommendation six allows for innovation and exploration for students with a more flexible general education schedule. You can read more about the recommendations here.

“General education is supposed to be yours to do with what you want,” Miller stressed to the assembly.

Following Speaker Miller’s report, President Emily McDonald gave her weekly report where she highlighted a meeting with the borough and police departments. She informed the assembly in the year since the tasers were implemented by University and State College Police, they have only been drawn and then used six times. She noted most of those incidents did not involve students.

In other news, Michael Straw was confirmed as the “We Are…Worth Funding” director with a vote of 30-1. UPUA was featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education for its legislation to get students to utilize Penn State Learning over paid tutoring services. And finally, the smoke free campus initiative was brought up a handful of times but it will be a while before there is legislation on the issue.

The meeting was adjourned at 10:12 p.m. UPUA will be back in the HUB next week for its Wednesday meeting.

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