UPUA Passes Seven Pieces Of Legislation, Temporarily Suspends Rules

The University Park Undergraduate Association gathered in the HUB Wednesday night. I thought the meeting would be a good one because of the hefty agenda packet waiting at the media table when I walked into 223B HUB, but it turns out what wasn’t in that packet was the most interesting.

Before we get into that though, President Emily McDonald focused her report on last week’s Board of Trustees meeting and her Wednesday trip to Harrisburg with other student government leaders and university presidents to discuss the budget impasse with legislators.

“We got a lot of positive vibes from the legislators,” McDonald said of the trip. “We’re hoping that can light the fire under some people to ignite change and focus on getting a budget. ”

McDonald also said when we get to the other side of spring break, there will be a big push to get the Greek Life Task Force in full swing. This task force was announced just about a year ago and last month began to move forward and establish itself. Seeing as Greek life never takes a break, it will be interesting to see the kinds of things the task force sets forth.

Vice President Terry Ford’s report was a recap of the meetings he had in the last week. Notably, Ford met with the Student Budget Advisory Committee to work on making better disseminating the student budget information to students and more fully engaging administrators.

In liaison reports, Shawn Bengali reported he and GPSA President (and Onward State General Manager) Kevin Horne are still strongly advocating for separating graduate students from undergraduate zoning, but despite initial support from the borough there is a lack of recommendation. Bengali also updated the assembly on the effort that would allow fraternities to burn off nuisance borough points by performing community service, saying that long-term residents are extremely unsupportive. “It’s basically dead in the water,” he said.

On a lighter note, Movin’ On Liason Nikita Paige was proud to announce the festival’s lineup to the assembly.

“We’re very happy and excited that we were able to secure this lineup,” Paige said, noting there was a specific reason the organization targeted the bands that they did and it wasn’t easy securing the big-name acts.

Due to the “excessive amount of new business,” the assembly moved into a 10-minute caucus breakout before diving into legislation.

Not first but potentially most interesting was Resolution 41-10 , “Student Housing Bill of Rights,” which provides a list of recommendations to situations in which undergraduates have to deal with their landlord, especially seeing as many students are rushed into finding a house or apartment because the deadline is so early in the academic year.

“There have been many instances where students believe their landlords have not provided important information and resources,” the legislation reads. The resolution mirrors a Tenant Bill of Rights from the District of Columbia, but in State College there is no way to enforce the recommendations — landlords, essentially, don’t play by your rules.

“These are the initial steps in the process to improve tenant-landlord relationships,” Representative Bengali said. Though there’s still a lot to be done to implement such a Bill of Rights for students in State College, the assembly was supportive and brainstorms were flying even though everyone understood it was just the basics. The resolution passed unanimously.

Speaking of legislation passing unanimously, Resolutions 42-10, 43-10, and 44-10 as well as Bills 18-10 and 19-10 all received a 100 percent vote. Here’s a quick run-down of each:

  • Resolution 42-10, “Establishment of the Nittany Advocates Corps. Training Program” — this resolution advocated for the establishment of a program that will provide training to all undergraduate students who “wish to advocate on behalf of issues they are passionate about.”
  • Resolution 43-10, “UPUA Representation on the University Committee on Instructional Facilities” — resolved to allow UPUA to provide one student representative on the University Committee on Instructional Facilities, which determines what University Park spaces (primarily classrooms) are used for.
  • Resolution 44-10, “Support of the General Education Implementation Committee ‘Implementation of the New Integrative Studies Requirement in General Education’ Legislative Report” — this resolution’s title is worse than its bite. Essentially, UPUA is thankful for what the university has done to improve general education, but are hoping to see more. “We can’t let this become stagnant — this is something to continue,” Speaker Emily Miller said of the hopefully increased efforts.
  • Bill 18-10, “World Culture Day Space Allocation” — this bill provides space and funding for World Culture Day which, according to Representative Divy Agnihotri, is an “event not to promote tolerance, but rather unity.” The event is part of Blue & White Society’s P.S. I Heart You Week festivities.
  • Bill 19-10, “2016 Election Commission Budget” — this bill outlined the costs for the upcoming UPUA election, which came out to $2,529.90, significantly under last year’s $5,000 fee. The funds will cover things like iPad rental stands and election day cheese platters but, much to the dismay of some members of the assembly, not election day T-shirts.

Just when the assembly made its way through the prepared new business, Ryan Valencia made a motion to suspend the rules for a moment. I know what you’re thinking — general madness in 233B HUB!

Fortunately there was no real crime, but there was some UPUA wrongdoing. Valencia, who was late to the meeting because he spent the day in Harrisburg with McDonald and Miller, made a motion to suspend the rules for a moment to add a resolution to the agenda.

If you’re familiar with the general order of a UPUA meeting, you know legislation that’s not on the agenda before it’s finalized can only be added after opening roll call in the “adoption of the agenda” section of the meeting, according to Robert’s Rule. The resolution’s cosponsors, Katie Jordan and Samantha Bentrim, failed to do this, and instead waited until Valencia suspended Robert’s Rule to present the legislation because he was unable to do so at the appropriate time, because he was running late. Valencia’s name was not on the resolution as it was printed.

Despite all of this, the assembly voted unanimously to suspend the rules and unanimously in support of the resolution brought forward, “PSU Votes Week.” Resolution 45-10 supports PSU Votes Week and provides management of the registration tables which will be staffed by assembly members. PSU Votes Week will make use of TurboVote and is designed to engage undergrads.

Unfazed by the craziness, Speaker Miller’s presentation focused on the fact that there are only about 10-12 pieces of legislation left that the assembly wants to tackle before 10 makes way for 11, and noted there’s only two (!) meetings left in the term. Miller also encouraged members of the assembly to put together documentation of what they do on a day-to-day basis and big projects they worked on as to look back on the year and create continuity between assemblies.

The meeting was adjourned at 10:15 p.m. As numerous reps pointed out, have a fun yet safe spring break, and we’ll see you in two weeks for the second-to-last meeting of the tenth assembly.

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About the Author

Lexi Shimkonis

Lexi is an editor-turned-staff writer who can often be found at either Irving's or the Phyrst (with the chances she'll have her backpack being the same). Lexi is a senior hailing from Spring City, PA (kind of) and studying Civil Engineering. Please email questions and/or pleas for an Instagram caption to [email protected], or for a more intimate bond, follow her on Twitter @lexshimko.

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