UPUA Debates Over Sending On-Campus Students Home In Heated Meeting
The 15th Assembly of the University Park Undergraduate Association met virtually via Zoom Wednesday evening for its second fall semester meeting.
The assembly heard from quite a few students during the open student forum. These students voiced their concerns about the university possibly closing due to a rise in coronavirus cases. They also raised issues surrounding housing security, mental health issues, financial problems, and general health and safety. Some shared fears about spreading the virus at home or possibly catching it when traveling home.
Open student forum would end up lasting for about an hour.
In their reports, both President Zach McKay and Vice President Lexy Pathickal thanked the number of students who spoke and voiced their thoughts and opinions during the open student forum.
Before moving into a caucus breakout, the assembly revisited Resolution 18-15, Addressing Concerns about the COVID-19 Return to Campus Plan. Last week, UPUA voted to table this resolution but revisited it this week with some noticeable changes to its recommended course of action.
The co-signers to the resolution removed the part that urged for a campus shutdown, which was instead moved to its own resolution addressed later on in the meeting. The resolution advocates for the daily posting of coronavirus testing results, and that testing, in general, increase from 1% of the university’s population each day to 10%.
Resolution 18-15 also proposed a $2 increase in hourly wages to student workers as a form of hazard pay and a $100 increase in the semesterly stipend given to RAs. The resolution passed 32-2-4.
The first order of new business for the evening was Resolution 20-15, Calling for Penn State to Transition to a Remote Learning Format and On-Campus Housing Closures.
This resolution recommends that the only possible course of action to ensure the safety of all students, faculty, and State College community members, is to close on-campus housing and transition all non-essential in-person courses and activities to a digital format.
Exceptions to the on-campus closure include students facing housing insecurity or other financial, physical, or personal extenuating circumstances.
Representatives spent nearly an hour debating this resolution. Many spoke personally about certain mental health issues they fear would arise if they returned home. They also circled back numerous times to the overwhelming number of students who stated during the open student forum that they do not want to return home.
As UPUA has seen happen before with a controversial resolution proposed during a virtual meeting, problems arose when reps and members of the general public began utilizing the chat, quite heatedly at times. In a typical in-person assembly member, this type of discussion would not even be possible, as one rep speaks at a time while the rest are silent. Pathickal ultimately needed to close the chat.
After much debate, Resolution 20-15 failed 28-11-0.
UPUA then confirmed and swore in the 15th Assembly’s secretary, Sandra Thomas. Thomas, a sophomore finance major, emphasized her desire to give back to the community and also shared her experience as a fund manager for the Nittany Lion Fund. Thomas wants to continue to improve transparency within UPUA, and named keeping extremely accurate meeting minutes as one of the ways she would like to do so.
The final piece of new business for the evening was Resolution 19-15, Support for International Students Affected by COVID-19 Course Delivery.
This resolution addresses the fact that many professors have continued to enforce typical attendance policies in their classes this semester, despite many international students choosing to live in their home country this fall. Resolution 19-15 expressed how an issue with this enforcement is that some students are having to tune in to lectures with up to a 10-12 hour time difference from State College.
Resolution 19-15 tasks UPUA with providing resources and materials to international students who may currently be struggling as a result by their course delivery modes. Increased accessibility for CAPS services for international students is also included in the recommended course of action. Resolution 19-15 passed 36-0-0.
After executive reports and comments of the committees, the heated second meeting of the fall semester adjourned at 11:38 p.m.
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