UPAC Implements Policy Changes, Prepares For Semester Under Young Leadership
The University Park student activities fee was $96 per student this semester. That might seem low compared to the thousands of dollars we each pay in tuition, but when you consider the estimated 46,000 students on campus, the student activities fee brings in nearly $4.5 million each semester, or $9 million each year.
Until recently, the biggest question surrounding the student activities fee was “What is this money used for?” In short, most of this money goes to UPAC to be allocated to student organizations, but for those involved in university affairs, that answer wasn’t good enough.
UPUA President Terry Ford spent last year working with administrators to develop proposals for what he dubbed the “Student Initiated Fee,” which would be controlled by the various student governments on campus. As he mentioned in last week’s UPUA meeting, Ford loves things like tuition rates and fees.
“I’ll be on the [Board of Trustees’] Finance and Capital Planning Committee, which deals largely with things like tuition rates, state appropriation requests, fees — which you all know I love very much,” Ford said in the meeting.
“Part of the flexibility that the Student Fee Board offers is allowing students to determine what a fee is spent on,” he continued. “By the end of the week we’re hoping to have the handbook for the Student Fee Board finalized and on the desk of Damon Sims.
The UPUA fee proposal hasn’t been put into action just yet, however, so UPAC is still functioning as normal until the potential new fee system is implemented. So what does “normal” look like for a student-run organization that allocates millions of dollars? For starters, the committee chair is only a sophomore.
“I love UPAC,” UPAC chair Mike Hoeschele said. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. I was looking for an opportunity to make a difference, and I saw things in UPAC that I wanted to see change for the students to benefit, so I’m excited to now be in a position to do that.”
Although any student can technically be the individual in charge of four-and-a-half million dollars, last year’s chair was a senior, and previous chairs include graduate and professional students. Hoeschele has already carried policy changes from April into fruition this semester, including updates to allocation policy for costumes, field trips, and service trips.
“Probably the biggest thing [with costuming] is that UPAC will cap costume requests at $1,500 per academic year,” Hoeschele said. He also hopes to enforce the policy that organizations should submit an inventory of costumes they already have with their requests, explaining why these aren’t adequate. “We just want to know that you’re not asking for essentially the same things over and over again because that’s not an appropriate use of the fee.”
UPAC may consider requests for costumes only (purchase, rental, and cleaning). UPAC caps costume requests at $1,500 per academic year. Casual wear such as jeans, solid tee shirts, leggings, undergarments, shoes, and athletic wear will not be considered for funding under this policy. An inventory of an organization’s current costume and clothing holdings must be submitted with any new clothing request submission. Organizations must also include a discussion of why the currently held items are not sufficient to complete the organization’s mission. Set design and prop purchases and rental will be considered but an organization must show how the items enhance the program experience, why the items are necessary for the successful completion of a program, and why alternative methods for acquiring these items is not feasible.
Regarding field trips, UPAC previously capped field trips to one day round-trip and 20 attendees. Now, field trips can be of any length and any size; however, UPAC will not consider funding lodging for such trips.
UPAC also implemented a map of the regions acceptable for service trips, consisting of mainly New England and Mid-Atlantic states.
UPAC considers funding organizations for service trips within the Service Region illustrated in Appendix J, unless otherwise determined appropriate. Documentation providing the unique need that only exists outside the Service Region must be included in the funding request.
Any University Park student can bring policy changes before the committee, and policy meetings are open to the general student population. Although usually approved in April and effective on the first day of the fall semester, policy can technically be changed at any time throughout the academic year.
What’s the best way to ensure you’ll get funding for your student organization? “Go online and look at our handbook,” Hoeschele said.
“Every decision that we make is based on the handbook and is based on policy we have. None of it is personal view. UPAC is an apolitical committee, and that’s why it’s so great in my opinion. No matter what background or opinion the organization has, we base all of our opinions solely on policy.”
Aside from small allocations, UPAC funds standing allocations with six- and seven-figure budgets, including the Student Programming Association (SPA), Homecoming, and Movin’ On. If you got your Kanye ticket at a reduced student price, it’s all because of UPAC’s funding for student ticket subsidies with the Bryce Jordan Center and the Center for Performing Arts. Though $96 a semester is small in comparison, each student should care how their fee dollars are being spent and how they’re adding up to fund bigger and better things.
“Every student at University Park is tied to UPAC,” Hoeschele said. “A lot of people don’t realize that, but it is their money that we’re allocating. It’s not ours, and they deserve to know where it’s going.”
If you want to be a part of the committee, UPAC is currently accepting applications for new committee members on its website. In fact, getting involved in UPAC may not be as hard as it seems.