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UPUA Will Not Fund Phone Lockers, But Will Support CAPS

UPUA’s weekly meeting was a unique one last night with plenty of discussion and a piece of legislation that seemed doomed from the get-go. As we plunge into the final weeks of the semester, the assembly shows no signs of slowing down, bringing four pieces of legislation to the floor and updating on numerous other initiatives.

The meeting opened with a special presentation from Counseling and Psychological Services Director Dr. Ben Locke, who highlighted some of the biggest problems facing CAPS. Despite a less than 10 percent increase in enrollment from year to year, CAPS has seen a 50 percent increase in students seeking treatment, proving the numbers aren’t correlated. In a typical school year, there’s a waiting list for treatment by October and CAPS simply can’t handle all of the students who need its services.

Locke proposed a solution to the assembly in a Student Mental Health Fee he suggested initiating at $15 per student, per semester, which would give CAPS a little more than $1 million to work with at University Park. A request fit for the Student Fee Board, the assembly later voted to approve Resolution 24-11 — Support of CAPS Funding Through the Student Initiated Fee — unanimously. With this legislation, UPUA encourages the Student Fee Board to fund CAPS using student fee dollars and charges the four UPUA members on the Board to advocate for such funding.

Speaking of the Student Fee Board, President Terry Ford gave his report following Locke’s report, wherein he updated the assembly on interviews for the five at-large seats on the Board. Ford said more than 70 students applied and he hopes the Board will convene for the first time after Thanksgiving break.

Ford also elaborated on the $20,000 grant UPUA received earlier this week to work on transitioning Penn State to a smoke-free campus, clarifying the money is in UPUA’s name but will sit within the university’s accounts. He also said the money can’t be used to help an individual or group physically quit smoking, but instead must be used for education and advocacy purposes like signs. Ford mentioned the LionPATH student committee met for the first time and got a sneak peek at the new user interface, emphasizing that “It looks GREAT.” We’ll see.

The assembly had plenty to discuss in new business, with most of the talk surrounding Bill 18-11, which would fund the leasing of two phone “lockers” to protect students’ phones if they need to use one of the charging stations in the HUB but don’t want to stay within two feet of the station to make sure nobody takes the phone. The boxes would allow students to set four-digit codes so their phones are secure while charging and would cost UPUA more than $2,500 to lease two sets for a six-month trial.

Multiple members of the assembly opposed the legislation for a variety of reasons: the cost was too high for something UPUA wouldn’t actually own, the boxes don’t really solve the issue of charging students’ phones effectively, students could easily forget their phones in the box for hours or take up the locker long after their phones are done charging, and the list goes on.

There was also a lot of discussion about logistics that didn’t seem to make the boxes feasible. What happens if you forget your password? Where would they be located? Could they be moved if they could potentially benefit more students elsewhere? From the get-go, the legislation didn’t seem to stand a chance. Two attempts to vote on the bill were quashed by objections and Representative Nick Karafilas (inspired by Academic Affairs Chair Samantha Geisinger) moved to change the legislation to lease only one of the boxes, which failed 21-9. The assembly then voted on the legislation as it was presented, which ultimately failed 19-11, so you’ll just need to watch your phone while it’s charging in the HUB like any responsible adult.

And that’s the way it should be — there are better ways to use student dollars than a locker that would only benefit a couple hundred students a day, if that. Seldom have I seen students stand around the charging stations in the HUB or elsewhere to make sure their phones don’t get stolen while charging. In fact, the bigger problem here is so many of the stations only have a few working chargers at this point, including iPhone 4 chargers (which are practically obsolete). There’s a better way for UPUA to use its funds to solve the problem at hand — access to phone chargers on campus — and these phone lockers would’ve been a solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist. I’m glad to see no money was spent on this random, unnecessary technology.

The assembly moved through three other pieces of legislation, beginning with 17-11, Funding of WhatToFix Day in December. UPUA held a What To Fix week earlier this semester, which was so well-received the assembly wants to continue the dialogue with students and continue to collect their suggestions. What To Fix Day will take place December 7 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the HUB, allowing students to tell their student government what problems, no matter how big or small, need to be addressed at Penn State. The bill passed unanimously, but if you can’t make it to the HUB, you can always tweet @UPUA and @wtfPSU to let the assembly know what you think needs fixed.

Next was Bill 19-11, “Funding for Manage Stress Workbooks,” which would provide 100 resource books for students with information on managing and mitigating stress. The assembly unanimously supported this legislation.

The final piece of legislation was Resolution 24-11, Support of CAPS Funding Through the Student Initiated Fee. Mentioned above and as we’ve broken down before, the recently created Student Initiated Fee will be split into four sub-categories — one labeled services — which will allocate student fee funding for organizations and services on campus like CAPS. With this legislation, UPUA urges the Student Fee Board (when it is officially formed) to vote to allocate funding to CAPS, and is charging its members that sit on the board to advocate for such allocation. The resolution passed unanimously.

The meeting adjourned at 10:28 p.m. (to make up for the fact that UPUA won’t meet next week, I guess). The assembly will convene again after Thanksgiving break for its final two meetings of the semester and of 2016.

Comments for the Good of the Readers: All business last night…sorry, folks. Happy Thanksgiving!

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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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