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UPUA Votes In Support Of Professor, Urges University To Cease Firing Process

The 17th Assembly of the University Park Undergraduate Association met yet again Wednesday night to wrap up the spring semester. The assembly discussed the organization’s budget, a “Know Your Academic Rights” campaign for the fall, and the pending dismissal process against a professor.

The assembly began with two special presentations, the first coming from Daniel Newhart, the university’s assistant vice provost for planning. Newhart talked about the 2024 Penn State Self-Study, which occurs every eight years to evaluate the university and reaffirm the university’s accreditation with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Then, UPUA President Najee Rodriguez and Vice President Sydney Gibbard gave a presentation on the 2022-23 budget adjustment.

Soon enough, the 17th Assembly moved into new business.

Elections

Vincent Smedile, the Eberly College of Science representative, and Rafael Lara, a Latino Caucus representative, were nominated as Association of Big Ten Students (ABTS) Liaisons. Lara was ultimately elected to the position.

At-large representatives Zion Sykes and David Morgan were nominated for State College Borough liaison. Sykes was elected to the position.

Confirmations & Swear-Ins

Aarathi Kallur and Sam Browne were confirmed as executive co-director of the First-Year Council. Andrew Waldman was confirmed as the chief justice. The directors for the department of committee relations were also confirmed.

All of those who were confirmed were also sworn into their roles. Sohail Shaik was sworn in as the APIDA Caucus representative. Trinity Jackson was sworn in as PAC representative.

Legislation

The content of Rodriguez and Gibbard’s special presentation led to the first piece of legislation for the night, Policy #01-17: Budget for the 2022-2023 Academic Year. The policy denotes the allocations of a $157,798.55 budget that will be used to “ensure successful completion of [UPUA’s] initiatives to better student life for undergraduate students at University Park.” In addition to this amount, there is a rollover of $11,170 from the 2021-2022 academic year budget.

Policy # 01-17 passed unanimously.

Next up was Bill #03-17: Establishment of the Syllabus Week Fall 2022 “Know Your Academic Rights” campaign. The campaign was first established by the 7th UPUA Assembly and has continued every year since to help students better understand the Faculty Senate policies that guide the classes students take at the university. The campaign will include advertisements detailing five Faculty Senate policies:

  • Senate Policy 34-89, Course Drop
  • Senate Policy 42-27, Class Attendance
  • Senate Policy 43-00, Updates to Syllabi
  • Senate Policy 44-20, Final Examinations
  • Senate Policy 89-00, Student Privacy Regarding Letters of Recommendation

In addition to advertisements posted both online and in the HUB, the UPUA website will launch an “Academic Rights: FAQ” page and offer refrigerator magnets with this information. Eventually, the campaign will have a second part as a refresher at the end of the fall semester.

Bill #03-17 passed 35-0-0.

The last piece of new business addressed was Resolution #01-17: Supporting Dr. Oliver Baker and Urging Administration to Withdraw Their AC70 Charge Against Him. The resolution was brought to the floor by a two-thirds vote.

On August 27, 2021, the Coalition for a Just University held a rally outside Old Main to call for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate at Penn State. At the rally, Baker, an English and African American studies professor, was involved in an altercation with a student counterprotester.

Baker later received charges for his involvement in the scuffle, but those were later dropped by county officials. However, Baker remains on leave from the university and is currently on the receiving end of a dismissal process that could result in his termination.

The resolution supports Baker on behalf of the UPUA and calls on the College of the Liberal Arts Dean Clarence Lang and Vice Provost Nicholas P. Jones to halt the AC70 firing process, used to terminate tenured and tenure-eligible faculty. If Lang and Jones do not withdraw the charge, UPUA calls on the university president, either Eric Barron or Neeli Bendapudi, to stop Baker’s termination. Additionally, UPUA supports the rally in front of Old Main that will take place on April 28.

There was heavy discussion on the resolution, including concerns raised about other behaviors of Baker as well as the connection of the resolution to the Students Against Sexist Violence. Others who were for the resolution said that the AC70 dismissal process concerns Baker’s charges and acquittal and nothing more.

After some heavy debate, Resolution #01-17 passed with a vote of 20-13-1.

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About the Author

Mackenna Yount

Mackenna is a junior food science major from Manitou Springs, Colorado and is one of Onward State's associate editors. She loves food, is addicted to coffee, and can give you random facts or bad jokes that you didn't ask for. Ask her to bake gluten-free goodies so she has an excuse to try out new cupcake flavors. Mackenna can be contacted via Twitter @mackennayount (especially if you want to show off your best dad jokes) or you can shoot her an email at [email protected]

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