UPUA Hosts First-Ever Virtual General Assembly Meeting, Passes Slate Of Coronavirus-Related Legislation
The 14th Assembly of the University Park Undergraduate Association convened Wednesday evening for its ninth meeting of the semester. This meeting was monumental for UPUA, as it was the first time the assembly was ever hosted fully remotely. The assembly met via Zoom and was tasked with the difficulty of figuring out how to still vote and discuss legislation digitally.
Despite working through these challenges for its first-ever virtual meeting, the assembly still had a successful meeting as it passed all proposed legislation that was brought to the table.
The assembly tends to vote by voice or role call in its normal general assembly meetings, however. During this virtual meeting, members used key features on Zoom, like the polling feature. The poll results on legislation are the ones officially put on record.
In both of their reports, President Laura McKinney and Vice President Jake Griggs expressed their admiration for assembly members staying dedicated and focus during this unsettling time. They also both echoed the sentiment to members that it is important they take time for themselves, check in on each other, and think about their physical and mental well being with so much currently going on around the world.
After hearing from McKinney and Griggs, the assembly moved into its new business for the evening.
The assembly started off by making changes to both its Adhoc Bylaws (Policy 07-14) as well as the Adhoc Constitutions (Policy 08-14). After some discussion within the assembly, all proposed changes and final decisions were made and passed.
The first resolution of the night, Resolution 52-14, Support of Penn State Housing Reimbursing Room and Dining Charges for the Spring 2020 Semester, was the first coronavirus-related piece of legislation of the night that was passed.
This resolution is in response to the university announcing that it plans to offer prorated housing and meal plan reimbursements due to the financial strain students are facing in the current virtual period. Students during this time are unable to utilize their room and board, and meal plans of which they have already fully paid for for the year.
The assembly discussed the logistics of these reimbursements including how if reimbursements were credited toward another semester, how they would work for graduating seniors, those not returning to Penn State, or those living off-campus next year. They all stressed the importance of making sure all students, no matter their circumstances, received reimbursements.
The next resolution of the night, Resolution 53-14, Support of H.R. 3598: FREED Vets Act, also passed. This resolution is in support of the United States Department of Education automatically discharging loans under the Federal Family Education Loan Program to veterans that have been designated, “total disability for a service-connected condition.”
Resolution 54-14, Encouraging Governor Wolf and the Borough Council to Support a Moratorium on Evictions, also passed. This resolution would support those who are struggling financially to pay rent during this time by temporarily barring evictions for residents. Again, the assembly spoke candidly about how important this resolution is during this time of need for those living within the State College community.
The next piece of legislation passed was resolution 55-14, Support of Online University Faculty (UFS) Policy Violation Form.
The next piece of coronavirus-related legislation passed was Resolution 56-14, Support of University Faculty Senate COVID-19 Resolution: Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory Grades. This resolution, on behalf of UPUA, offers their support to the fact that the Penn State administration is considering an optional satisfactory or unsatisfactory grading option for all undergraduate students.
The assembly discussed and posed questions at this time relating to how this would affect entrance-to-major requirements, and students who are studying abroad and may wish to use this grading option.
Another piece of coronavirus-related legislation that was passed during the night was Resolution 57-14, Support of Paid Leave for Student Workers due to Campus Closure in the Coronavirus Pandemic. Again, this resolution comes in response to UPUA realizing the massive financial suffering some students may be going through currently with this pandemic.
The assembly discussed the fact that students may work either on- or off-campus, and how this could play into effect if this paid leave were to be made possible. Members also discussed the fact that The House recently passed the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” which would allow small businesses to still pay their employees, something the assembly is in support of happening in State College.
The final piece of legislation for the night, Resolution 58-14, Support of Relaxing Synchronous Online Class State Requirement for Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance (PHEAA) Financial Aid Beneficiaries, also passed.
Since the university has moved to remote learning for the remainder of the semester, the assembly discussed how the majority of professors are being told to continue their classes synchronously. The problems that students have expressed so far during this time have come in many different manners, from students who live in different time zones, to a lack of technology, to other financial or family problems at this time.
Part of the reason why the university is requiring synchronous teaching during this time is because of PHEAA, which requires synchronous teaching for some financial aid beneficiaries. This resolution would offer UPUA’s support in regards to the immediate relaxation of the PHEAA eligibility requirement during the COVID-19 outbreak.
After streaming online for the first time with minimal technological issues, the assembly adjourned at 11:45 p.m. The final meeting of the 14th Assembly will be next week.
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As a Penn State student sorely missing Happy Valley, its people, and its iconic style, I took it upon myself to recreate iconic Penn State outfits that remind me of home.
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