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UPUA Wraps Up 14th Assembly By Passing 13 Pieces Of Legislation

The 14th Assembly of the University Park Undergraduate Association convened Wednesday evening for its final meeting of this assembly. This gathering was the second time that the assembly was ever hosted fully remotely, and again was hosted via Zoom.

After adding quite a few resolutions that the 14th Assembly wanted to pass during their final meeting, President McKinney gave her final report as student body president. McKinney’s gratitude and appreciation for all the work done during the 14th Assembly were clear as she became emotional when reflecting on her time at Penn State.

“I have so much, as you can see, on my heart that seems almost impossible to put into words about the past year of my life. It was the hardest thing I had to do,” McKinney said. “But even more the very best and most beautiful.”

Speaking specifically as to all the work that was done in the past 12 months, McKinney proudly recalled some of the major accomplishments the 14th Assembly made, including passing many bills, resolutions, and hosting numerous events across campus.

“Looking back on all the work you have accomplished throughout these past 12 months makes me beam with pride and gratitude,” McKinney said. “Not including legislation from tonight, we passed 30 bills, and 58 resolutions in the hopes to better student lives. We also hosted a whopping 16 programming events.”

When addressing some of the assembly members specifically, McKinney spoke about how valuable their work was in the assembly, and in the time she shared with them throughout the past four years. She also spoke even more candidly about how their dedication to her as a friend has been instrumental in helping her succeed over the last four years.

In wrapping up her final speech, McKinney spoke about the friendship and extremely valuable sense of teamwork she and Vice President Jake Griggs have built within the past four years.

“Jake, my partner in crime, my veep, my best friend, I quite literally could not have done this job without you. Any success I had this year is just as equally yours. You were a rock to me and this organization and led it with such poise, eloquence, and determination,” McKinney said. “I would not have wanted anyone else sitting next to me for the hundreds of meetings we were in together. I have never witnessed someone be as smart, intentional or caring when advocating for students. It is going to be weird going through life and entering a room without you by my side after this is done.”

McKinney’s final words had her sharing that it has been the biggest honor of her life serving the 14th Assembly, and as the student body president in general. And then for the last time ever, McKinney then passed it off to Vice President Griggs for his report to the 14th Assembly.

Griggs started off his final report by also thanking the assembly members and giving them high praise, and recognition for their constant dedication and commitment to serve and advocate for all Penn State students.

“To the assembly, I know I’m not super close to all of you, but each of you are incredible in your own way for taking time to advocate for students,” Griggs said. “That alone makes you special, and that alone deserves recognition.”

Griggs went on to also specifically thank many other assembly members but wrapped up his speech with a heartfelt thanks to McKinney for her friendship, and partnership over their time as Penn State students.

“Laura, I didn’t think I would be doing this until you asked me to. I did this for you and I am so glad I did. I’m so lucky and honored to have been your vice president this past year, it has been the journey of my life,” Griggs said. “It’s been an incredible honor to watch you work and watch you be the person that you are. You are genuinely the best person, the kindest person, the most empathetic person I have ever met or ever will met, I’m so lucky to call you my best friend and I know you will be for life.”

Legislation

The first piece of legislation of the night was the suspension of the budgetary policy, which gives President Laura McKinney the power to utilize spending of any funds until the 15th Assembly begins. Typically, the assembly needs to approve the spending of any funds greater than $1000, but under this suspension, that is not the case. This is a policy that is typically suspended around this time every year in order for the current assembly to utilize any leftover funds until the next assembly begins.

The first bill of the night, Bill 31-14, Support of 2020 Community Graduation, passed after some discussion. This bill addresses the fact that many diverse organizations host their own graduation ceremonies, which may be a difficult task for some, and would offer financial support to the APIDA Caucus, Black Caucus, and Latino Caucus.

Resolution 59-14, Support of Bringing a Bookstore Vending Machine to the HUB-Robeson Center, was the first resolution of the night. This resolution supports bringing a bookstore vending machine similar to those in the Pattee and Paterno Libraries to the HUB.

These bookstore vending offer a last-minute range of items including blue books, pens and pencils, calculators, and index cards, as well as other things. Due to the lack of usage of one of the vending machines currently in the library, there was discussion about bringing that specific machine over to the HUB where there is higher traffic of students.

Resolution 60-14, Support of Housing and Food Services Efforts to Bring Mobile Order Ahead Dining to Campus housing and food services mobile order ahead, also passed. This resolution would support there being a mobile order-ahead option to better effectively serve the 13,700 students who eat on campus on a daily basis.

This resolution began being put into the works in the 12th Assembly and was part of the executive platform initiatives of the 13th Assembly. A Housing and Food Services committee convened around this time, and due to continued work between UPUA and this committee, the target pilot date for a mobile order-ahead program is slated for the fall 2020 semester.

The next resolution of the night was Resolution 61-14, Support for The Creation of the College of Arts and Architecture Student Council, and it also passed.

This resolution would support creating a College of Arts and Architecture academic student council to better advocate for the academic, civic, and artistic rights of students within that college of study. This would be a registered student organization and is currently in the works as some logistical paperwork and documentation are filled out.

Next up was Resolution 62-14, Creation of the 2020 PSU Votes Roundtable. This resolution is brought forth by the UPUA Committee on Governmental Affairs, and is in support of creating such a roundtable in attempts to expand collaborative efforts within numerous student organizations in relation to civic engagement and student voter turnout. This resolution also easily passed.

Resolution 63-14, Support for the Creation of a Holistic Wellness Center on Campus, was brought forth as the fifth resolution of the night, and it too passed.

This resolution is in support of creating a Holistic Wellness Center on or near campus that would give students access to necessities that UPUA believes students may not necessarily have access to as is. This resolution would consolidate and support the resources needed for students.

Resolution 64-14, Support of the Free Menstrual Product Dispenser Installation in the Pattee and Paterno Library, also passed. This resolution has been an ongoing initiative that President McKinney has personally worked on alongside other assembly members. It would expand the current free menstrual product dispenser program to include not only the HUB but the library as well.

Next, Resolution 65-14, Call on Penn State Administration to Prorate Spring 2020 Tuition. This bill is in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the university to close and shift to a remote learning period for the remainder of the spring semester. While the university has announced it will offer prorated housing and food service refunds to students, President Barron announced that the university would not refund tuition during this remote learning period.

This resolution was debated for almost an hour. Assembly members discussed tuition rates at Penn State for both in-state and out-of-state students, as well as some of the key disadvantages that make the remote learning period more challenging, and less beneficial for students. The 14th Assembly is in support of asking the university to explore prorating tuition for the spring 2020 semester since they believe many students are still technically paying for services that they no longer have access to, even with the remote learning period. Resolution 64-14 passed with a vote of 35-2.

Resolution 66-14, Support for the Expansion of the “You Are Welcome Here” Banners On-Campus, also passed. A “You Are Welcome Here” campaign promoted during the 12th Assembly brought banners supporting the international student population at Penn State to two locations in downtown State College. This resolution would support bringing such banners to on-campus locations as well.

The next resolution brought to the floor and passed was Resolution 67-14, Opposition of the First Day Complete Program at Penn State. This resolution is in opposition to the First Day Complete Program coming to University Park unless it is an opt-in program for students.

As it stands, the First Day Complete Program aims to provide students with all of their course materials before the first day of classes for a tuition per-credit-hour charge. Based on required adoptions on Commonwealth campuses during the fall 2018 and spring 2019 semesters, UPUA provided data that says that the First Day Complete Program would cost $318.75 for a student taking 15 credit hours.

The 14th Assembly opposes such a program being implemented unless it is opt-in, which would give students the choice in participating in the program, as well as opting-out if they choose so that they still have a choice in the selection of textbook material and vendors.

Resolution 68-14, Support of Class Attendance Leniency on Election Days, also passed. This resolution aims to help promote civic engagement and ease student participation in such areas. According to University Faculty Senate Policy 42-17 Class Attendance, civic engagement is not currently considered a legitimate excuse to miss class.

Students interested in getting involved and voting in local, state and federal elections often times find it challenging to do so due to class attendance policies or academic commitments. Resolution 68-14 would encourage instructors to provide, within reason, opportunities for students to make up work for engaging in their own civic duties.

Resolution 69-14, Support of a University Park Scholarship Webpage, urges the Office of Student Aid to create a scholarship webpage that allows students to easily find application-based scholarship opportunities. As it currently stands such a website does not exist, which poses some challenges to students looking for scholarships. This resolution also passed.

The final piece of legislation passed for the night was Resolution 70-14, Support for Increasing Affordability of the Offical Transcript Fee. This resolution is in support of lowering the transcript request fee, which is currently $15, to $5 per set of digital transcripts. The legislation aims to make these files more easily accessible to students who may be required to provide official transcripts to employers.

After the final piece of legislation was passed, the 14th Assembly continued meeting so seniors throughout the organization could share their thanks, appreciation for fellow assembly members, and heartfelt goodbyes.

Speaker of the Assembly, Smeal College of Business Representative and senior Tom Sarabok shared the 14th Assembly managed to pass the second most bills, the most resolutions, and overall most legislation in UPUA’s history.

Although tonight was certainly a long one, the 14th Assembly adjourned for one final time at 12:39 a.m.

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About the Author

Ryen Gailey

Ryen is a junior early childhood education major from "right outside of Philly" - or in exact words, from 23.0 miles outside of Philly. She loves all things Penn State and has been a huge Penn State gal since before she could walk. Send her pictures of puppies, or hate mail at [email protected]

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