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UPUA Supports Advising Policy Revisions, Spends Too Much Money On Coffee

The University Park Undergraduate Association voted to support revisions to Penn State’s advising policy in a quick meeting Wednesday night.

The drafted changes have completely overhauled the Faculty Senate policy, though UPUA Academic Affairs Chair Chelsey Wood wasn’t able to say what sparked the need for such drastic change in the first place. Wood sits on the Faculty Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education, which approved the changes unanimously.

Wood said she considers the legislation student-friendly, which is why the resolution UPUA considered was to support not only the current draft, but also any and all changes in similar spirit. Notable changes include specifying student representation on the University Advising Council to be one student from UPUA and one student from the Commonwealth Council of Student Governments, as well as outlining specific responsibilities for both the advisor and the student advisee.

Representative Jake Springer sits on the Faculty Senate Committee on Admissions, Records, Schedule, and Student Aid (ARSSA). He said he’s against the UPUA resolution for many of the reasons ARSSA did not vote on the new changes — what’s asked of the advisors is “absurd,” according to Springer, and the steps are just not in place for smooth implementation.

“I think this was rushed through and I think there needs to be a lot of changes that can’t just be made on the floor [of Faculty Senate],” Springer said. “To rush this through is worse than to not have it at all, in my opinion.”

After some brief debate, the resolution passed 32-2-2. Representatives Zach Robinson and Tom Sarabok later explained they chose to abstain because they did not feel educated enough on the issue to make an informed decision, even after reading through the drafted changes and the resolution itself. A subjective pulse check on the room seemed many others were in a similar situation but chose to vote blindly regardless.

The Assembly passed unanimously (with one abstention) Bill 08-13, UPUA Funding for Coffee for Finals, which will spend nearly $900 of the organization’s budget on providing late-night coffee in the HUB during finals week. Each gallon of coffee cost UPUA $13 in previous semesters when this initiative was implemented, but this semester Starbucks set the price at $17.99 — a 38 percent increase with seemingly no explanation.

Some representatives asked about the reasoning behind the steep price hike, but no one who worked on the bill could offer a definitive answer. Facilities Chair Ben Cutler said he believed UPUA had been “getting a good deal” on the coffee and Starbucks was now recuperating some of the costs, but truly didn’t know why the prices had jumped so much.

Speaker Bhavin Shah said the expenditure is “not really a significant amount of money in comparison to [UPUA’s] budget.” However, the cost of providing coffee has nearly doubled in only a two-year span.

For comparison, during the fall 2016 and spring 2017 semesters, UPUA provided 35 gallons of coffee each semester for a total of $455. During the fall 2017 and spring 2018 semesters, UPUA provided 50 gallons of coffee each semester for a total of $650. The legislation for the fall 2018 semester will provide 50 gallons of coffee for $899.50.

The coffee’s predecessor was a UPUA initiative called “Finals Frenzy.” For the spring 2016 semester, Finals Frenzy gave out pizza, bottled water, and fruit snacks, all for $250 total. For the spring 2015 semester, Finals Frenzy gave out bananas, granola bars, Capri Suns, pencils, highlighters, and notecards for $430 total.

Draw your own conclusions.

Here’s a quick rundown of some other notes from the meeting:

  • President Cody Heaton reported the “Student Bill of Rights” initiative received positive feedback from student conduct, and UPUA leaders are hopeful for a January implementation.
  • Speaker Shah and Representative Zach Robinson both spoke briefly about proposed elections code changes, which you can expect to come to the floor after winter break. Robinson specifically mentioned limiting mutual endorsements, piloting a polling location in East Halls, and a new transparent reporting process for campaign violations.
  • This was Chief Justice Reilly Ebbs’ last meeting after spending her entire college career in UPUA, so the Assembly honored her with a standing ovation and Nittany Lion statue. “Continue to always be advocates for your passions, and thank you for a wonderful three and a half years,” Ebbs concluded her final report.

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About the Author

Elissa Hill

Elissa was the managing editor of Onward State from 2017-2019. She is from Punxsutawney, PA [insert corny Bill Murray joke here] and considers herself an expert on all things ice cream. Follow her on Twitter (@ElissaKHill) for more corny jokes.

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