UPUA Funds Basic Needs Endowment, Limited Grammarly Premium Subscriptions
The University Park Undergraduate Association’s (UPUA) 18th Assembly met Wednesday night for another of its weekly meetings. In a busy evening, the assembly passed two resolutions and four bills and swore in three new representatives.
For the third week in a row, several students attended the meeting to participate in an open student forum. These students, all looking for support and recognition of current affairs in Palestine, spoke to criticize UPUA and its leadership for violating its alleged nonpartisan affiliation based upon a previous social media post in support of Israel and failing to attend a vigil for Gaza. The students reminded UPUA of its influence across campus and urged the organization to attend a teach-in Monday evening in support of Palestine.
In her report, President Nora O’Toole addressed that the group the students belonged to was not directly affiliated with the university, explaining why she or other UPUA members didn’t attend the vigil. O’Toole affirmed that she and UPUA leadership were working with Student Affairs to figure out the best resources to be distributed to the student body in regard to the ongoing conflict.
The only piece of old business Wednesday evening was the confirmation of at-large representative Jonathan Zavialov. Following a speech and brief questioning of Zavialov, he was sworn in alongside Latino Caucus representative Sergio Velecico and Interfraternity Council representative Andrew Egan.
With a busy night ahead, the UPUA jumped right into new business. The first bill of the night was Bill #21-18: Creation of the University Park Undergraduate Association’s Basic Needs Endowment. The endowment aims to provide a sustainable solution to housing and food insecurity on campus. Currently, the only similar fund is the Student Emergency Fund which is capped at $500 per student.
UPUA will provide an initial $10,000 to create the endowment, but it will ultimately be overseen, managed, and hopefully expanded by the Office of Student Care and Advocacy. The endowment doesn’t come from student dollars but is funded by private donations. The endowment is also on the ballot for the 2024 class gift, potentially raising the initial donation amount.
Bill #21-18 passed unanimously.
The second vote of the evening was on Resolution #04-18: Establishing “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” Social Media Campaign. UPUA purchased the posters from Ohio State for indefinite use in 2015 and continues to use the posters on social media annually.
The resolution supports a social media campaign that will urge students to be culturally aware when creating their Halloween costumes. UPUA will also release a statement with further information that can be co-signed by other student organizations.
Resolution #04-18 passed unanimously.
The second resolution of the evening was Resolution #05-18: Supporting Penn State Housing and Food Services Pursuing 35% Plant-Based Food.
In May of 2023, Penn State committed to a goal of having 35% of its entrees be plant-based by 2025. Recognizing the environmental impact of moving in this direction, the resolution affirms UPUA’s support for Penn State’s commitment. It suggests using social media to both publicize the goal and hold the university accountable for reaching it.
Resolution #05-18 passed unanimously.
Next up was Bill #18-18: Funding for the 2023 Penn State Farmer Partnership Program Summit. The summit will be held from noon to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, November 8, in the HUB, with intentions to connect student leaders and Pennsylvania agricultural policymakers to “identify critical issues facing Pennsylvania’s agricultural communities.”
Bill #18-18 requests $1,300 for room reservation in the HUB and catering for the event. The bill passed unanimously.
Continuing strong, the assembly then introduced Bill #19-18: Funding for Mental Health and Wellness Week. Based on recent survey data, a third of Penn State students reported depression that made it difficult to function, along with even higher levels of stress or unhappiness with body image.
Mental Health and Wellness Week is an annual UPUA initiative that provides resources to students via tabling along with various de-stressing activities throughout the HUB. This bill requests $5,745.91 to fund activities for the entire week.
Bill #19-18 passed unanimously.
The last bill of the night was Bill #20-18: Grammarly Premium Subscription Pilot Purchase. Currently, over 20,000 Penn State students use the free version of Grammarly. Using the “Unit Model” which includes over 1,000 subscriptions, the annual price goes from $144 to just $7.50.
Bill #20-18 sponsors a total of 1,000 Grammarly Premium subscriptions for Penn State students, totaling $7,500. It’s currently unclear how these subscriptions will be distributed.
Bill #20-18 passed with a vote of 40-1.
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