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UPUA Passes Legislation Supporting Plastic Bag Tax, Student Council Funding

The 18th Assembly of the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) met for the final time on Wednesday evening ahead of the UPUA election on Wednesday, March 27.

The legislative branch made the most of its final night, passing a total of 10 resolutions and four bills.

The meeting opened with a presentation from the 2024-2027 UPUA Strategic Planning Board. The committee aimed to lay the groundwork for the next several assemblies.

Resolution #18-18: Reinstating the Sexual Violence Awareness and Prevention Roundtable opened the evening. The resolution explains UPUA’s commitment to reintroducing the SVAP Roundtable, which hasn’t been held since fall 2022. The roundtable will bring together student leaders, Registered Student Organizations that are involved in sexual violence prevention, various Penn State offices, and the entire student body if they choose to attend. With the resolution, UPUA aims to hold one roundtable each semester.

Resolution #18-18 passed unanimously.

Resolution #19-18: Continuation of Developing a Registered Student Organization Quiz explained that earlier in the 18th assembly, an initiative was started to create a survey that would help match students with clubs and organizations on campus that they would hopefully be interested in. Resolution #19-18 allows for the project to continue, specifically with progressing in outreach to organizations on campus identifying a means to make matches efficiently and effectively.

Resolution #19-18 passed unanimously.

Next was Resolution #20-18: Continuation of the Blue Light Initiative. Currently, UPUA is circulating a survey that asks students about their feelings of safety on and off campus and if they would be likely to use a campus safety mobile app. The resolution calls for the future assembly to conduct an analysis of the results and take appropriate next steps based on the results.

Resolution #20-18 passed unanimously.

Resolution #21-18: Support for Schreyer Honors College Student Senator Representation Within the Penn State University Faculty Senate followed. Currently, the Faculty Senate constitution allows for a representative from each of the academic colleges. However, the Schreyer Honors College does not have a representative seat.

With this resolution, the UPUA Chair of Academic Affairs is expected to convey the desire for a Schreyer Honors College representative with the Faculty Senate leadership.

Resolution #21-18 passed unanimously.

The assembly moved into discussion on Resolution #22-18: Support of Student-Friendly LionLink Platform. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UPUA fell out of the practice of promoting the LionLink platform, which serves as a bridge between current students and alumni. The resolution calls for posts to be made on the UPUA Instagram page to reintroduce students to LionLink.

Resolution #22-18 passed unanimously.

Resolution #23-18: Reconstitution of Academic Calendar Committees was introduced next. Several years ago, an academic calendar committee existed, allowing for changes and adjustments within the academic calendar. The committee has since been terminated. With the resolution, UPUA calls for the reestablishment of the committee with representatives around campus who would have a hand in making any changes to the calendar.

Resolution #23-18 passed unanimously.

Next on the agenda was Resolution #24-18: Support for Student Councils Receiving Funding from Units. At the recent Student Council roundtable, student leaders discovered their individual student councils received a wide variety of funding from multiple thousands of dollars to zero dollars despite funding requests. Resolution #24-18 formally requests to all colleges that they provide funding to their respective student councils.

Resolution #24-18 passed unanimously.

Continuing strong, representatives discussed Resolution #25-18: Support of The Culture Mixtape: A Celebration of the Multicultural Arts. The event will be hosted by the College of Arts and Architecture and encourage multicultural students from the college to join together and discuss their experiences as multicultural students. The resolution gives UPUA’s support for the event.

Resolution #25-18 passed unanimously.

Representative Fletcher Port introduced Resolution #26-18: Resolution in Support of a Plastic Bag Tax at Penn State. Currently, Penn State’s markets and other dining establishments on campus provide plastic bags to students, which are detrimental to the environment. To dissuade students from accepting plastic bags, the resolution recommends to Penn State’s administration that a plastic bag tax of anywhere from five to 15 cents be implemented. If accepted, the tax would go into effect at the beginning of the 2024-2025 academic year. The resolution gives the money to Penn State and recommends the university donate it to philanthropic causes like THON.

The resolution sparked a lot of conversation among members of the legislative branch. Representative Rik Bhattacharyya commented on the high level of resources required to make a reusable bag, while representative Jacob Oberle called into question the ability of the university to do whatever it wanted with the money generated by the tax.

Resolution #26-18 passed with a vote of 26-9-0.

Finally, the assembly discussed Resolution #27-18: Support for American Sign Language Inclusion at Penn State. In October 2023, Penn State announced American Sign Language could be used to fulfill the 12-credit world language requirement for Bachelor of Arts students. The Smeal College of Business grants Bachelor of Science degrees and has its own world language requirement within the college, giving the college the freedom to exclude ASL from its internal requirement. A leader within the college stated they want students to choose a language that would introduce them to “global cultures and international perspectives.” Resolution #27-18 calls for the Smeal College of Business to reconsider its decision as “all languages and cultures should be treated equally.”

Resolution #27-18 passed with a vote of 31-1-0.

The first bill of the evening was Bill #70-18: Funding for UPUA Resource Page Social Media Campaign. UPUA’s website has a page providing students with information about various resources that Penn State offers, including things like CAPS, tutoring, writing help, and more. The page is in the process of being updated with current links and information. This bill provides funding for a sponsored Instagram post to make students aware of the website and the resources it includes.

Bill #70-18 passed unanimously.

The second bill of the evening was Bill #71-18: Change of Campus Transfer Student Guide Survey Incentive. UPUA and the Council of Commonwealth Student Governments (CCSG) recently created a Change of Campus Guide. The organizations are looking for feedback from a change of campus students to ensure that the guides’ information is accurate and reflects the experiences of a wide variety of students. The bill provides $25 of funding for a gift card to serve as an incentive for students to fill out the survey.

Bill #71-18 passed unanimously.

Next up was Bill #72-18: Latino Caucus x UPUA x Sigma Lambda Beta: Know Your Rights: Citizenship. Latino Caucus, UPUA, and the international fraternity Sigma Lambda Beta are collaborating to hold an informational event about the rights of citizens in the United States. The presentation will include things such as voting rights, labor rights, and information about jury service. This bill provides $45 for refreshments and snacks for the event.

Bill #72-18 passed unanimously.

The final piece of legislation for the night was Bill #73-18: Funding for 2024 World Cultural Week. World Cultural Week is one of the big events hosted by the Justice and Equity Committee. The 2024 event will run from April 1 tp 5 and feature a movie screening and a student DJ. The bill allots $966 for renting the spaces (Freeman Auditorium and HUB steps), funding the DJ, and various snacks.

Bill #73-18 passed unanimously.

This was the final meeting for the current assembly, including UPUA president Nora O’Toole. Previously, O’Toole served as the Speaker of the Assembly, the chair of the Governmental Affairs Committee, and the ABTS liaison. Along with her UPUA involvement, O’Toole is a member of the Presidential Leadership Academy, and Penn State Faculty Senate, and danced in THON 2024 for Lion’s Paw.

Elections for the 19th Assembly will be held from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27. Students can cast their votes via an online form.

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About the Author

Haylee Yocum

Haylee is a senior studying immunology and infectious disease. She is from Mifflintown, PA, a tiny town south of State College. She is fueled by dangerous amounts of caffeine and dreams of smashing the patriarchy. Any questions or discussion about Taylor Swift’s best songs can be directed to @hayleeq8 on Twitter or emailed to [email protected]

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