UPUA Amends Representative Accountability Policies, Supports University Stance To Protect Undocumented Students
The University Park Undergraduate Association met last night in 302 HUB to pass a remarkable six pieces of legislation, including an amendment to the UPUA constitution with measures on representative accountability and a resolution supporting the university’s stance to protect undocumented students.
After a well-attended Open Student Forum, State of State representatives presented to the assembly about their annual conference, which will be held February 11, 2017. Registration forms will be released after winter break. The organization will also hold a smaller roundtable event focused on sexual violence on January 19.
The assembly jumped right into legislation after that, spending the most time discussing Policy 03-11, Revisions to Representative Responsibilities and Accountability. The policy amendment outlines duties of representatives more specifically and addresses the removal process for those not fulfilling these duties. Bylaws changes must pass by a two-thirds vote and constitution changes must pass by a three-fourths vote, so this legislation as a whole would need a three-fourths vote to be enacted.
For a representative to be removed from the assembly under current policies, a motion must be made in the assembly and a vote taken. This new policy implements a system of two strikes (violations against the duties of a representative) before the committee chair can take the case to the judicial board to decide on the representative’s removal.
Representative Nate Pentz expressed concerns over the removal process relying too heavily on the judicial board, but was assured by numerous other members of the assembly that the judicial board is truly the most bipartisan group with potential authority to handle such proceedings.
“I think [the judicial board] is very much removed,” Chief Justice Eric Love said. “It’s like having an outside organization come in to hear the dispute.” Love serves as the voice of the judicial board to the assembly, but otherwise the J-Board doesn’t interact all that much with UPUA.
After discussion of numerous amendments to the legislation, four amendments were actually brought before the assembly, but each of the four failed, including one amendment to send the legislation back to the steering committee for reconsideration.
The assembly also discussed separate requirements academic representatives may have from their respective colleges, to which President Terry Ford said the UPUA constitution should supersede those of the colleges.
“Requirements needed for academic reps are not seen inside of UPUA time and place,” Representative Brad Garrett said. “Maybe at-large representatives don’t always see the work that [academic representatives] put in. Maybe an at-large rep may be involved in UPUA things, [but this] doesn’t mean in the role as a whole that an academic rep isn’t engaged.”
Love noted an academic representative can’t truly be barred permanently from being in the assembly. After an academic representative is removed, the college is notified and can use its own policies to fill the seat. There’s technically nothing preventing them from sending the same person back.
“We’ve spent so long talking about this, when in reality, we should be talking about ways to better student life,” President Terry Ford said. “Try to imagine the guts that it’s taking for us to propose this. This has been a really great year…but we have to think about those assemblies in the past where the productivity has been next to nothing.”
After a brief scuffle about voting on an amendment by secret ballot, the full legislation finally passed 25-8.
The other highly debated resolution last night was brought to the floor by two-thirds and drew quite a crowd for Open Student Forum, and the multiple students who spoke were the first to do so at an assembly meeting for a few weeks (aka students seldom take advantage of the opportunity to address UPUA directly during meetings). Commendably, students passionate about this resolution stayed through the accountability discussions to hear what the assembly decided on Resolution 27-11: Call on University Administration to Protect Undocumented Students in The Pennsylvania State University System from Future Proposed Deportations.
During open student forum, a graduate student from the Department of Geography discussed a petition to President Barron to take further action to support the principles of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order from President Barack Obama. She urged the assembly to pass the resolution.
“A lot of you ran on diversity and inclusion, and I told you last year I wasn’t going to forget that, and here I am reminding you,” former UPUA representative Sis-Obed Torres said.
“It means taking a stand and doing more for your constituents than giving them buses to go to a football game,” another student said during the forum, alluding to UPUA’s Blue & White Brigade.
Representative Jorge Zurita-Coronado introduced the legislation, explaining that students asked UPUA to take action in support of DACA as well.
“This is an opportunity for us to show that we’re not just talk and to stand shoulder to shoulder with [diverse Penn Staters],” he said. Zurita-Coronado also clarified that the resolution would in no way break any laws, but instead would protect students from mass deportations and raids. Penn State would continue to abide by criminal warrants.
“If a criminal warrant isn’t presented, there is no legal justification for a federal agent to enter a residence hall or a classroom and our university should not work with them,” Zurita-Coronado said.
Representative Tim Farley echoed a comment made in open student forum that the oath of office for UPUA is to defend the rights of each and every individual student at the university, which should apply to this resolution.
Representative Nick Karafilis brought up the possibility of working with administration to help undocumented students become citizens or renew their visas. Zurita-Coronado explained this is usually not as simple as it seems, but members of the assembly seemed in general consensus that they should look into lobbying for immigration reform on behalf of these students.
Although Representative Isaac Will expressed concerns over federal funding for Penn State if DACA is reversed, Ford said, “I think really the spirit of this resolution is to say even if the federal government threatens [reduced federal funding], we still stand with Penn State students.”
“We are Penn State. We play all or we play none. There will be no meetings,” Representative Andrew Uhring closed, quoting the famous comments that some believe to be the origin of our We Are chant. The resolution passed unanimously.
Additional legislation passed with relatively little discussion. Here’s a run-down of everything else that was passed:
Resolution 28-11: Support for the Implementation of a Restorative Yoga Program to Combat Mental Illness Progression
This self-explanatory legislation supports CAPS and UHS efforts to institute a restorative yoga program for students referred by CAPS, beginning next semester. The resolution passed unanimously.
Resolution 25-11: Support of ROTC Priority Scheduling
This legislation urges the Faculty Senate committee on admissions, records, scheduling and student aid to amend policy to include ROTC students in those who get to schedule their classes first. Because these students must schedule around required courses, labs, and physical training requirements, it only makes sense to give them priority scheduling — after all, athletes have priority scheduling to accommodate practices and other requirements for their respective sports. The resolution passed 32-3.
Resolution 26-11: Support for the Addition of an International Student Council Liaison to University Faculty Senate
This legislation asks the Faculty Senate to include the President of the International Student Council as a member of its Student Life committee. The resolution passed unanimously.
Resolution 29-11: Announcement of Extended Building Hours for Finals Week Fall 2016
This legislation announces the extended building hours for finals week and encourages students to use these spaces for studying. Access to Thomas and Willard buildings will be extended until 5 a.m. from December 12 to December 15, so the buildings will be available to students from 8 a.m. to 5 a.m. each day (21 full hours of fun). The resolution passed unanimously.
President Terry Ford’s Report
Ford highlighted President Barron’s announcement at the Mental Health and Wellness Call to Action event on Monday. “Although the deal is not done yet, the president is extremely confident that the money is there,” Ford said. “He’s just not revealing the source yet. He did reveal [the amount] publicly at our call to action on Monday.”
Barron committed to matching $400,000 of student fee dollars next year and $500,000 within a two-year period. Ford also said the At-Large Student Fee Board members were selected after interviews before break and will meet for the first time when Vice President Damon Sims organizes a suitable date.
After touring Ohio State’s natatorium and tennis facilities, Ford said the student governments are looking into what they can do to improve those facilities here.
The LionPATH Steering Committee walked Ford and Vice President Katie Jordan through the new system and allegedly much-improved user-interface, and the committee’s goal is to have the new user interface released in the spring. “It still has a lot of tweaks to work out, but it looks a lot better,” Ford said.
On Friday, student government leaders will meet with the Student Budget Advisory Committee for an in-depth trustee-level overview of the university budget — an overview of more depth and breadth than any they’ve received before.
Additional Reports and Comments
- Alexander Chung will take over as the ROTC liaison to the assembly.
- Borough liaison Morgan Goranson said the Borough Council will discuss the assignment of points and any possible changes to the system at its meeting Monday, but will not vote until January. The Council will meet at 7 p.m. in the Borough Building.
- Representative Isaac Will tasked the assembly with ensuring Penn State is prepared in case of an emergency in light of the attack on Ohio State’s campus this week. “They were vastly more prepared than we are,” he said. “I don’t ever want any of us to be in the position where we have to say ‘I wish I did more.'”
The meeting adjourned at 11:19 p.m.
Comments for the Good of the Readers: There will be a free power remix class tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. in the White Building as part of Mental Health & Wellness Week. Vice President Jordan encourages students to attend to see Speaker Alex Shockley “shaking his stuff.” You don’t want to miss this.