UPUA Passes Two Resolutions, Discusses Potential Bylaws Amendments
UPUA’s 11th Assembly met Wednesday night back in 302 HUB to pass two pieces of legislation and discuss potential bylaw changes during a Committee of the Whole session held after the regular assembly meeting.
The meeting began with an unusually populated open student forum. Although nearly 15 students from the College of Liberal Arts attended, one representative of the group addressed the assembly in support of the “Ban the Box” movement. The movement seeks to eliminate “the box” requiring applicants to reveal criminal history on student and employment applications.
This week’s special presentation featured Zack Moore, Penn State’s new Vice President for Government & Community Relations. Moore spoke mainly about Penn State’s state appropriation request — this year, the university will ask state legislators to increase the appropriation by 11 percent.
“I will tell you that is an aggressive ask,” Moore said, detailing the recent history of cuts and increases to Penn State’s appropriation. With this increase, the Board of Trustees hopes to freeze in-state tuition rates.
Of course, Moore recognized he was “preaching to the choir” in addressing UPUA about working with state legislators. “I think that we should build a plan and build a program that you guys can be excited about and that you can show up to the capital for and that you can be proud of,” he said, emphasizing the importance of involving the student body at large in initiatives like Capital Day when students visit legislators in Harrisburg.
Moore closed by offering his support for UPUA’s initiatives and, addressing all students “I’m not that difficult to find if you come in to Old Main,” he said. “You’re allowed to come into Old Main. I’ve heard from some students that you don’t think you’re allowed.”
President Terry Ford reported next, announcing that the Board of Trustees town hall event will be held November 15 at 7:30 p.m. in the Hintz Family Alumni Center. The town hall will focus on diversity and inclusion and six trustees already confirmed their attendance.
Ford also said Highlands Civic Association President Susan Venegoni recently stepped down. The Highlands is the State College neighborhood with the biggest connection to campus as it includes downtown apartments and frat row. The acting present sent a letter to President Eric Barron about the rallies and vandalism in the area last weekend.
Finally, Ford touched on his favorite subject — the Student Fee Board — encouraging members of the assembly to apply, although preference for the at-large seats will be given to non-student government representatives.
Vice President Katie Jordan reported on continued work with international student transitioning, including initiatives to help students understand the process of securing break access housing. She said Faculty Senate was extremely receptive of a presentation on the campus climate survey results dealing with sexual assault and misconduct and they discussed creating a resource packet of sorts for faculty on the subject.
Borough Liaison Morgon Goranson reported the borough budget was finalized on the staff side and presented to council, recommending no tax increases. He also touched on the implications of last weekend’s vandalism.
“Right now, it has been totaled around $31,000,” Goranson said, “just so everyone in the room knows.”
In new business, the assembly first considered Resolution #16-11: Recognition of Carshare and Rideshare Implementation by Penn State Transportation Services. Basically, this resolution commends Penn State for implementing alternative transportation options Zimride and Enterprise Carshare. The resolution passed unanimously.
Next, Resolution #17-11: Support for Presentation of the Advising Report to the Undergraduate Advising Council was brought to the floor by a two-thirds vote. During the 9th assembly, UPUA began working on recommendations to improve the academic advising system. With the university’s transition to LionPATH, Canvas, and Starfish (the new advising platform), UPUA’s academic affairs committee prepared a report to present to the University Advising Council on behalf of the undergraduate student body. Here’s a summary of the recommendations:
- Professors should further use the feedback functions provided in Starfish to communicate with students about how they’re performing in the course.
- Create a centralized advising office to deal with issues that can occur when a student needs to see multiple advisors, like in Global Programs or double-majors in different academic colleges.
- Improve the technological aspect of advising so students can get answers to some questions online and Starfish can integrate with Canvas. Information about prerequisites and concurrent course options should be made more readily available to students.
- Mandate advisors use the note system in Starfish to lessen the impact of switching advisors or visiting multiple advisors for different issues.
- Create a university-wide advising standard that each academic college or department should adhere to.
In discussion, Smeal representative Tim Farley said the Smeal College of Business refused to provide its data because the director responsible for the information would not recognize UPUA as a legitimate body deserving of said information. Which, uh:
The resolution passed unanimously.
The meeting stayed in session for a Committee of the Whole, which UPUA uses when they want to have a formal discussion with the entire assembly. In Committee of the Whole, the assembly discussed potential bylaw changes on representative accountability.
Freshman Council Director Garrett Warmbien reflected on his time in UPUA’s now-defunct Internal Development Committee, of which he and Speaker Shockley are the last two remaining members. Warmbien recommended a system with a violation report (which anyone could fill out) ruled on by UPUA’s Judicial Board.
Chief Justice Eric Love advised the assembly not to take expulsions lightly because most UPUA positions are elected. “You’re saying that the people who voted for them made a mistake,” he said.
The assembly discussed the implications of the current policies, which require anyone expelled from the assembly to be censured at a general body meeting.
After remaining strikingly silent for the discussion, Ford addressed the assembly. “I think we’re sort of missing the point here,” he said, reminding the assembly why such a provision on accountability is important. Ford spoke on the fact that each assembly only has one year to accomplish its initiatives, so UPUA shouldn’t waste time with representatives who aren’t actively working towards those initiatives. “The way we operate is the slowest thing I’ve ever seen,” Ford said, criticizing UPUA’s lack of efficiency in using group votes for every decision.
“I’ve been in this organization longer than anybody in the room,” Ford said, “and I’ve seen so much time wasted…I know I’m rambling, but the point is there has to be some system where the organization as a whole can work in sync.”
Accountability issues have plagued every organization from the beginning of time in one way or another, and when the people you work with are also your friends, peers, or someone you will probably work with again in the future, it can be difficult to lay down the law when someone isn’t doing their part or even their assigned work. This is further compounded in UPUA because the representatives are elected officers that the student body selected to represent them and work for the betterment of student life. You don’t want to give anyone too much power, because what if they’re the problem or there are biases or personal conflicts?
But as Ford said, you need a boss, and that’s why there is a hierarchy of order. It’s unfortunate that this sometimes leads to wrinkled relationships — because in most cases it’s a strictly business decision — but an organization like UPUA does work that is too important to gripe with hurt feelings, and part of this bylaw change deals with that and how you sometimes just need to be able to get people out. That’s why we have leaders and that’s also why UPUA should be okay with giving their internal leaders power because, ultimately, they gave them this power (read: committee chairs).
The meeting adjourned at 10:35 p.m.
Comments for the Good of the Readers: The UPUA printer passed away this week. RIP Bertha. Fortunately, the office is getting a new printer today, so the assembly’s newest initiative is naming the new addition to its family. Representative Michael Straw announced Wednesday he’s voting for Cassandra. What do you think the new UPUA printer should be named? Let us know in the comments.
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“As we work together to make the impact as least disruptive as possible to our students and employees, we strongly urge Congress and the president to end this impasse.”
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