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UPUA Splits Over Funding Red Cross Blood Drive

The University Park Undergraduate Association met for its weekly meeting last night back in the HUB, finally falling back into a routine in 233B. The room was packed and so was the agenda, so with that flawless transition let’s just jump right in.

The contention with Bill 12-11, Funding for Red Cross Blood Drive Co-Sponsorship, began as soon as it was presented to be added to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting. The bill allocates $1,000 to the Red Cross Club for their annual Penn State-Michigan State blood drive competition. Facilities Chair Brent Rice presented the legislation, saying it needed to go before the assembly quickly because the event is happening soon.

Representative Michael Straw objected to adding the bill to the agenda, saying it should have gone through committee before being presented to the full assembly, as is general protocol. The objection to the legislation failed 32-4, meaning it had the two-thirds needed to be added to the agenda.

When it was time for new business, the bill faced a lot more scrutiny and multiple members stood in either support or objection. There was concern for not only the timeline and the fact that UPUA was just serving as a fund for the Red Cross Club to be able to put on this event but also, primarily, that the American Red Cross does not allow men who have had sexual relations with other men (MSM) within the last year to donate blood.

“The UPUA, in this ‘All In’ campaign we are doing, should not be trying to demean gay men,” Straw said. “[The Red Cross] is not an organization I can support personally, and I don’t think [UPUA] should be supporting this.”

Others argued that, considering the work the assembly has done for improving diversity and inclusion on campus, supporting the Red Cross blood drives in any way would be a step back and would not be putting forth the same front that UPUA as a whole attempts to through legislation and advocacy.

Those in support of the legislation stressed the importance of blood donation while noting how taking this stand against the FDA’s regulations against MSM donors is misplaced in supporting the Student Red Cross Club in its efforts to collect blood for those in need. Academic Affairs Chair Samantha Geisinger even brought up how UPUA actually advocated against this very discriminatory regulation in the 9th assembly.

“I don’t know why we wouldn’t support this organization that is trying to save lives when we’ve already worked for something in the past,” Geisinger said. “One day I believe everyone will be able to donate blood.”

“I don’t think us opposing this bill is taking a big enough stand against the MSM ban,” said Governmental Affairs Chair Shawn Bengali. “I think it’s better to fund pizza that will go toward people saving lives than to try to take a small stand against MSM.”

Another area of concern was UPUA shouldn’t just be funding organizations and clubs — that’s why UPAC exists. UPUA gave the Red Cross Club $905 in the 9th assembly, $1,000 in the 10th assembly, and now another $1,000 in the 11th, and this time it’s just for food (last assembly’s $1,000 covered t-shirts in addition to food). Sure, UPUA is funding a piece of a blood drive and therefore blood donation and the organization that organizes the drive, which is made up of the assembly’s constituents. But $1,000 seems a little much for a few UPUA logos included on the drive’s promotional material. Students from the Red Cross Club spoke during open student forum about the past successes of the Penn State-Michigan State drive, noting that last year 992 units of blood were collected. Though significant, that number is only a small portion of the student body, so the money UPUA is spending in this instance isn’t really reaching that many students.

Representative Straw also argued this into his first point, saying, “If we are using student activity funding we have to be nondiscriminatory.” He said that because some students would be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, they wouldn’t be able to benefit from this money UPUA is putting up.

There were three motions to vote on the legislation — the first two objected by Straw and others in the interest of continuing the discussion — before the assembly actually voted. Ultimately the bill passed 18-16 and UPUA will spend $1,000 on snacks for blood donors in the annual Penn State-Michigan State blood drive.

The remaining legislation was less contentious, both passing with votes of unanimous consent. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Resolution 14-11, Support of U.S. Senate Bill 1195, “Student Right To Know Before You Go” Act

There is currently a database under the Obama Administration titled the “College Scorecard” that provides information about a college or university to prospective students and is maintained by the U.S Department of Education. In passing this legislation, UPUA voted to support a Senate Bill that would improve upon the system and offer more transparency for high schoolers who are in the college search and decision processes.

Resolution 15-11, Support of Faculty Senate Resolution and the Implementation of a Smoke-Free Task Force

One of UPUA’s biggest projects this assembly and last has been advocating for a smoke-free campus. During Tuesday’s Faculty Senate meeting, the Senate voted to support the creation of a Smoke-Free Task Force that will evaluate the possibility and feasibility of the university’s campuses going smoke-free. The Faculty Senate passed the resolution supporting the Task Force with an 87 percent acceptance rate, which is significant considering how the Senate has been known to push back on student initiatives.

The Task Force that will be created will include more than 20 groups and will be President Barron’s third task force since he took over in Old Main (the first two being the Sexual Assault Task Force and the Greek Life Task Force). In unanimously passing the resolution, UPUA is telling President Barron its ready to move forward in helping Penn State go smoke-free.

Other than being excited about the Student Fee Board in his report (there is a date for the first Student Fee Board meeting and applications for the five student representative seats will be sent out soon), President Terry Ford revealed a project he discussed with CATA, Penn State Transportation Services, and the National Panhellenic Council to create a “loop” that travels from the fraternities to campus to drop students off at their dorms.

Unlike the Blue and White Loops, this shuttle would only go one way — students would be able to get on in Frat Row and get off at whichever hall they live in, but they wouldn’t be able to take the bus from their dorms to the frats. The proposal is unique and would surely be heavily utilized by students, but there are concerns that the roads that house the fraternities are very narrow, meaning a CATA bus may have to be downgraded to a 15-person van. There are also two complete loops not that far from frat row, so while students would definitely take advantage of this shuttle, the White Loop stops near frat row aren’t really that inconvenient. Plus riders would miss the special Penn State experience that is being downtown late on the weekends and interacting with all of the other Penn Staters who are out and about. So perhaps a tad infeasible, you can’t argue that this wouldn’t be the most popular bus in town Thursday through Saturday after 11 p.m.

Vice President Katie Jordan discussed work with Global Programs and the Office of Student Orientation and Transition to give international students more opportunities when it comes to scheduling classes. Because of the way international student orientation is set up, Penn State’s international students are the last to register for classes. This is especially difficult for students who need to be on a specific course schedule in order to acquire entrance to major or other requirements on time.

State College Borough Liaison Morgon Goranson said (after some friendly prompting) that the Borough Council is making moves on the property nuisance ordinances, saying that the staff is recommending the Council not pass the ordinance that would limit the number of people who can be inside a fenced-in area. This is one of the ordinances that students are most concerned about, so not adopting it would be a huge win.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:39 p.m.

Comments for the Good of the Readers: For those as invested as I am on student government clothing, UPUA still hasn’t received its apparel. “Please stop asking,” Chief of Staff Jen Heckman begged of the assembly. “We call every day.”

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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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