UPUA Virtually Convenes For First Fall Semester Meeting

The 15th Assembly of the University Park Undergraduate Association met virtually via Zoom Wednesday evening for its first fall semester meeting.

The night began with a special presentation from Dr. Sonia DeLuca Fernandez and Dr. Alina Wong, from the Office of Educational Equity.

Fernandez and Wong shared some of the resources that the Office of Educational Equity offers, including the online report bias resource available to the public. They stressed the importance of this resource for students, faculty, and alumni who may experience any act of intolerance or observe any intolerance against anyone else.

Following the special presentation, the assembly heard reports from President Zach McKay and Vice President Lexy Pathickal.

Both McKay and Pathickal acknowledged the challenges students are facing and encouraged assembly members to keep working hard and to remember to take care of their physical and mental health.

“This is a year that I don’t think any of us have seen in our lifetimes, nor maybe our parents have seen in their lifetimes,” Pathickal said.

After a few liaison reports and a brief caucus breakout, UPUA moved into new business.

New Business

The first piece of new business of the evening was the confirmation of the executive director of records, Nikhil Choudhuri. Choudhuri spoke about his dedication to organizing, digitalizing, and keeping track of UPUA’s records. He served as the acting director of records over the summer also wants to work to continue to make all these records accessible to the public.

The next confirmation was Ker Sidhu, the new executive director of sustainability. Sidhu worked closely with the former executive director of sustainability, Nora Van Horn, this summer to learn about the role and shared her excitement for continuing the work that she and Van Horn started.

Sidhu is the vice president of the Queer and Trans People of Color at Penn State. She spoke about how her experience leading this group remotely has helped her learn to lead effectively and solve conflicts.

Grace Harnett was then appointed as the executive director of civic engagement. The department, formed a few weeks ago, was created through an executive order by President McKay. Harnett spoke about her experience in the College Election Engagement Project and maintaining a non-partisan role where she promotes civic engagement.

Following Harnett’s appointment, she was sworn in alongside all the other new executive directors, and new College of Agricultural Sciences Representative, JohnMark Miller. The assembly then moved into the legislation for the evening.

The first piece of legislation was Resolution 17-15, Awareness of Penn State “Mask Up or Pack Up” Campaign and University and State College Borough COVID-19 Guidelines. This resolution urges for the compliance of any university or State College guidelines to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus on campus. Resolution 17-15 also encourages the distribution of important information and any coronavirus updates to students.

Penn State’s “Mask Up or Pack Up” campaign encourages students to wear their masks and follow public safety guidelines to avoid being sent home.

The final piece of legislation raised was Resolution 18-15, Addressing the COVID-19 Return to Campus Plan.

This resolution urged for the close of on-campus housing with the exception of students facing housing security or other circumstances. It also proposed a transition for all non-essential in-person classes to fully remote learning. Resolution 18-15 advocates for a prorated return of funds for on-campus housing, dining, and activity fees if such a closure happens.

The resolution also denounces any contract or agreement students have had to sign that absolves the university of any liability should the students fall seriously ill or in any case of death.

However, if the university decides to remain, open Resolution 18-15 had numerous demands, including testing significantly more than 1% of the university’s population each day and mandating the recording of synchronous Zoom classes for students living in different time zones. The legislation proposed testing 10% of students daily.

Many assembly members voiced concerns over both sides of the debate. Some representatives found issues regarding housing security, mental health, and financial issues for students. They spent quite a while discussing this resolution, and after listening to numerous amendments and arguments made by assembly members, it was ultimately tabled.

Following reports from the chief justice, speaker of the assembly, and committee reports, the first meeting of the fall semester adjourned at 10:39 p.m.

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About the Author

Ryen Gailey

Ryen is a senior 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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