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Student Fee Board Votes To Expand Research Travel Funding Allocation Policy

The University Park Student Fee Board convened Wednesday morning to vote on proposed policy and handbook updates, including a proposed research travel policy amendment.

The policy change, proposed by the Board’s Subcommittee on Research Travel, expands acceptable usage of Student Fee funds through UPAC to include support of student travel with the purpose of presenting research. The Board motioned to adopt the subcommittee’s recommendation in a 6-5 vote after a deliberation that lasted about 45 minutes.

UPAC guidelines dictate that students and student organizations may apply for funding to attend “conferences, workshops, service activities, regional/national competitions, and performance activities in the USA or internationally,” but cannot apply for funding to support travel for the “purpose of entertainment, for an organizational retreat or for the purpose of presenting/conducting research.”

“In most cases, if someone is going to a conference for four days and they’re presenting research on one day, [UPAC] will fund for everything except for the one day of lodging for the one day they’re presenting at the conference,” UPAC Chair Dan Stauffer explained in reference to the previous policy. “If [the motion] passes, then, again, if they’re not already at that $500 (independent travel funding) cap, then they can get the extra $50 for lodging for the one night.”

Disagreement among Board members surrounding the policy change focused on the academic implications of presenting research, whether a student presenting research at a conference betters the entire Penn State academic climate, and the usage of Student Fee allocations for travel expenses instead of departmental funding.

“My concern is that this could be used as [academic] offices lofting off their travel cost onto UPAC,” said UPUA President Cody Heaton.

Other members espoused the importance of presenting research from a student perspective.

“The departments aren’t benefitting here,” said GPSA representative Nick Dietrich. “We already fund this kind of travel, this is just removing a penalty for presenting your research while you were doing that kind of travel.”

The Board also voted to approve and recommend several semantic and organizational changes in its handbook and operational guidelines. Among these changes were motions to move deadlines for at-large representative applications to April 1, elect the Board’s chair at the end of the spring semester of the academic year before they assume their position, and add a director of communications and director of records to its staff.

The Board also voted to recommend the addition of an alternate at-large representative to its membership. This member’s role would include attendance at meetings and hearings. If an at-large member leaves or is removed from the Board, the alternate at-large representative would be on hand to assume their place.

Handbook changes will be approved by the Fee Board’s Steering Committee during CCSG weekend next month, while operational guideline changes were approved directly and unanimously by the Fee Board Wednesday.

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About the Author

Jim Davidson

Jim is a junior English and history major and the features editor for Onward State. He, like most of the Penn State undergraduate population, is from 'just outside Philadelphia,' and grew up in Spring City, Pennsylvania. He covers a variety of Penn State topics, but spends nine months of every year waiting for the start of soccer season. You can reach him via email at [email protected] or follow him on twitter @messijim.

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