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The Sentinel

An Eye on the Penn State Administration

Does The Rotunda Rally Violate Activity Fee Rules?

I wrote earlier this week about the recent Rally in the Rotunda that happens every spring in Harrisburg. Unfortunately, the rally is virtually meaningless, due to the fact that the state legislators are looking for more budgetary transparency from the administration at Penn State before they’ll consider allocating more taxpayer dollars to the University.

Andy “the Annihilator” Nagypal, host of the popular public affairs talk show Radio Free Penn State (weekdays, 5-6pm) on The LION 90.7fm spoke about the Rally in the Rotunda on yesterday’s program. Specifically, Nagypal brought up a question related to the rally organizer’s use of funds from the Student Activity Fee (SAF).

If we look at the Student Activity Fee Handbook, we find a list of activities that are forbidden to be funded with Student Activity Fee dollars.

The Student Activity Fee Handbook (pdf) – Page 10 – Items That Will Not Be Funded
2. Appropriations to a legislative lobby or to a registered student organization whose primary purpose is to influence legislation.

The UPUA spent a few thousand dollars to charter a bus to Harrisburg with funds from the Student Activity Fee. The primary purpose of this expenditure was to “rally” inside the Capitol building to influence state appropriation legislation before it is finalized and sent to the Governor.

If we’re going to talk about the spirit of the law, there’s probably a strong case to be made that the use of funds constituted a violation of the activity fee rules. I wonder if the Student Organization Conduct Committee (SOCC) will be looking into this anytime soon…

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Normally wouldn’t use the comments, but the expenditure is legit. “Whose primary purpose is to influence legislation” is a modifier of RSO. Therefore, it should be read “a registered student organization whose primary purpose is to influence legislation”.

An appropriation can be for activities intending to influence legislation , just not the group requesting them. The student activity fee policies as they stand are 95% about not letting a group profit of them. UPUA didn’t charter the bus to take it down to Harrisburg for the purpose getting anything from the legislature for UPUA.

The bus also wasn’t just for UPUA students, anyone could have rode it. That probably opens up a can of worms that the SOCC would have to weigh on if a group just kept siphoning funds for activities which clearly are primarily to produce legislation. “To influence legislation” is not the primary purpose of UPUA, the money usage did not violate the funding tenants.

With a wink, I would also say Gail Hurley could have signed off on it since the VP of Student Affairs has the authority to override the “no-fund” rules. But I have nothing to say that did happen.

I’m actually pretty surprised by this blog’s timing, but keep safeguarding. Even the best intentions do sometimes need to be questioned.

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