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The Student Body President

The Blog of the UPUA President


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Keirans Featured In Northeast Times

The premier newspaper of Northeast Philadelphia ran a piece entitled “Welcome to College Life, Mr. President.” Below you can find the article.
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History Speaks: It’s More Than Just Another Fee

Since this facilities fee has been proposed, many have asked questions as to the need for it as well as for the student approval. Some may not see this as a major issue, only a hundred dollars. But at what point does it stop?

I became active in the discussions of the fee shortly after being elected as President of the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA). Since that time I have been shown graphs, diagrams, reports and been told accounts of other students wanting these facilities.

But I am absolutely still not sold. After all, this is not the first fee — in fact, these “fees” date back to the 1950s. Take for instance the Student Union Fee, created by President Milton Eisenhower which charged students $7.50 a semester beginning in the early 1950s to pay for the Student Union Building. This fee was later rolled into tuition.

Take into account that a today’s dollar is equivalent to 12-13 cents in 1950, so about sixty two dollars a semester has been rolled into tuition.

Another fee that was created was a Student Activity Fee which helped pay for publication of The Daily Collegian as well as the operation of other student organizations. As of 1960 this fee was at $4.90. Accounting for the value of the dollar today it is equal to forty dollars and eighty three cents. That brings the fees to a grand total of $100.83.

All of this was subsequently rolled into general tuition funds. Then in the mid 1990s a new fee was created to fund student activities and the HUB-Robeson Center. This fee was not supposed to increase above the rate of inflation in any given year, nor was it supposed to fund any building project other than the HUB-Robeson Center.

Fast forward to the new University Health Center, which is being subsidized by our activity fee. So much for those principles. Count in the Information Technology (IT) fee, which is well over $200 per semester and then count the current recreation fee if you want to use the gyms or pools.

At what point do the fee changes and increases end? Who is to say that these new fees won’t be rolled into tuition? Stop taxing us. The excuse that other schools have higher fees is erroneous because their respective tuition costs are a small portion of what we pay at Penn State.

What gets me is that the administration at Penn State may use these fees more and more and raise tuition less and less. Thus we can shed the tag of the most expensive public university in the country all the while still nickle and diming students left and right.

I love being a Penn State student and luckily for me I have the financial stability to attend. Not all of us do, though, and at what point do we recognize that we are a land-grant institution?

We recently heard a CCSG Presidential Candidate talk about how he had to take a year off from Penn State because he couldn’t afford the financial burden. Here is a prospering student leader who was turned away because of the escalating costs.

Part of me thinks I am writing this to myself, because the UPUA has already spoken up loudly on this issue, yet I have a strong hunch that we will be cast aside because, after all, “we’re just students.”

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Word Up: Penn State Theatre Success

This past Thursday I had an opportunity to see the play Word Up. The play is made up of almost entirely Penn State students. I must say that I am flat out amazed at the talent that was on that stage.

Normally this is not the type of thing I blog about, but this show is something special. Seeing Penn State students perform on such high level is always worth writing about.

One of my favorite plays is Rent, which I saw on Broadway in November. This play, Word Up reminded me a great deal of Rent but updated for a Hip Hop generation.

Word Up hit on many different social issues from the start of the Hip Hop movement, to the AIDS epidemic, to the violence of the early 90s, to political ignorance.

What is even more impressive is that a Penn State faculty member directed this play. A man named Steve Broadnax did an amazing job of meshing together talent.

I never knew too much about the theatre program before this play. If it wasn’t for St. Joe’s Prep alum Adam Ferrone being a main staple of the play I would have never attended.

I am glad I did attend because I found that we have a prospering theater program with some amazing talent.

In my time here I’ve attended a great deal of events but this might have been the most impressive performance I’ve seen.

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CCSG Gets it Right: Welcome, President Khoury

I am pleased to congratulate George Khoury on being elected Council of Commonwealth Student Governments (CCSG) President. This year there were three strong tickets, but Khoury outshined them all. Now it’s time to work together.

Historically, there hasn’t been a particularly impressive working relationship between the University Park student government and the CCSG. While the two governments may collaborate on one or two initiatives,  there is really not that direct link.

That will all change this year and hopefully be the impetus to a united student front working together, regardless of our campus of origin.

Most of the decisions at this University happen not within the student government but in nebulous advisory boards that are made up of different student leaders and administrators. CCSG and UPUA have members on all these different boards.

For students to ever have a strong say, though, we need to caucus and collaborate beforehand and decide then what is best for the student body as a whole. This is the model that students who sit on the University Faculty Senate have created by working as a collective block.

Khoury and I have been informally meeting throughout the past year, talking about various issues affecting with the student body. Together we have an opportunity to have a concrete impact on the student body as a whole, but moreover on the culture of this University.

The school is going through a complete change in its Office of Student Affairs at University Park. If we start working together on the issues that affect all the campuses, then we can set in motion a foundation for students to follow far into the future.

Congratulations, George. Now let’s get to work.

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Jerry ‘J.J.’ Livingston Runs For Office

Jerry “J.J.” Livingston, last year’s President of the Council of Commonwealth Student Governments (CCSG) has put his name in the race for Pennsylvania State Representative in the race for the 71st district.

In this Johnstown race, there are a total of six Democrats running for the party’s nomination with Livingston in the mix. Regardless of the outcome, it is great to see someone who served Penn State as a student leader make a bid for political office in our Commonwealth.

Livingston’s campaign website offers his background as well as his reasons for running. As evident by my meeting with him this past weekend, Livingston still cares deeply about the Penn State student body as he attended the CCSG Council weekend.

In my brief dealings with J.J. last year, I found him to be of high character and one who genuinely cares and loves our Alma Mater, Penn State. Regardless of the outcome in the primary, Livingston should be congratulated for stepping up and running for office in his first year out of college.

The student body of Penn State is pulling for you. It’s time to take your passion and leadership to the Capitol.

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The Student Government’s Forty Day Plan of Action

The following is an outline of plans for my first forty days as the president of the student body at Penn State University in the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA). Some of these dates may change based on scheduling conflicts, but for the most part they will serve as a guideline for the progress to be made before the end of this academic year.

While this may seem extensive, I anticipate a great deal more to be accomplished by the final exam period. This plan mainly encompasses that of my role as president. UPUA Vice President Valarie Russell, the Executive Cabinet and the Assembly will also be spreading their wings throughout campus through a plethora of projects.

The final two weeks of the plan will be jam packed, although here I’ve outlined what are more broad ideas rather than specifics because the scheduling of those weeks is still in progress.

The UPUA Forty Day Plan of Action

  • Thursday, March 27 – First trip to UPUA office after election results, informally discuss re-instituting Student Legal Adviser with UPUA Legal Affairs members.
  • Saturday, March 29 – Transition meeting with outgoing UPUA President Hillary Lewis.
  • Sunday, March 30 – Meeting with Vice President for Student Affairs Gail Hurley and Associate Vice President Stan Latta regarding the Student Facilities Fee.
  • Wednesday, April 2 – Attend the Rally in the Rotunda.
  • Wednesday, April 2 – First UPUA General Assembly meeting, elect all committee heads, hold meeting two weeks ahead of what was originally scheduled, pass legislation calling for a Presidential Commission for the Association of Big Ten Student Conference to be hosted at Penn State, a prestigious honor for our university.
  • Thursday, April 3 – Preliminary Meeting with University Park Allocation Committee (UPAC) Leadership regarding funding requests for next year, write editorial about my plans as President for The Daily Collegian
  • Friday, April 4 – Meeting with UPUA Adviser Bob Orndorff regarding platform goals and state of next year.
  • Friday, April 4 & Saturday April 5 – Speak with different student leaders about the implementation of the Student Facilities Fee.
  • Sunday, April 6 – First Steering Committee with UPUA Chairs where we will go over role delegations and committee assignments. Further we will discuss how to implement platform ideas by the end of the year.
  • Monday, April 7 – Emails and Notifications sent out to student organizations regarding Executive Cabinet Positions. Radio spots will also be run on The LION 90.7fm starting this week.
  • Monday, April 7 – Committee Meeting for The Corner Pocket in the HUB-Robeson Center with UPAC members including Chairwoman Kendra Carr, me and a representative from Safeguard Old State. The idea of reforming The Corner Pocket is a strong part of my platform and I plan on leading the charge to make it a reality.
  • Monday, April 7 – Speak in the open forum of the State College Borough Council about the need for a Student Landlord Dispute Resolution Center and a need for a Student ABC committee to increase relations. This will set the stage for further dialogue.
  • Wednesday, April 9 – Meeting with Borough Manager Tom Fountaine about the implementation of a Student Landlord Dispute Resolution Center as well ABC committee implementation. I also have invited Pat Gordon, Off Campus Student Union (OCSU) President, to be a part of the process and have extended an Executive Cabinet invitation to Gordon in order to create a strong working relationship with OCSU.
  • Wednesday, April 9 – UPUA Transition Dinner, where I will be offering the closing address in which I will make it well known to the current assembly and to the student body what we need to accomplish this year.
  • Thursday, April 10 – By this date I will have met with all members of the Student Activity Fee Board regarding the Facilities Fee. It is imperative that students especially are on the same page.
  • Thursday, April 10 – Meet with Gail Hurley and Stan Latta regarding the Facilities Fee.
  • Friday, April 11 – First Student Activity Fee Board (SAFB) meeting where myself and another UPUA representative will call for sweeping changes to be made to the Facilities Fee or for it to be tabled until a concrete plan is in place.
  • Friday, April 11 – At the SAFB meeting, ask that the board grant the UPUA an exemption to the three year rule regarding using Student Activity Fee Money to replace General Purposes. It has been two years since there has been a legal adviser at Penn State, the last being Jose Texidor. The UPUA wants to fill this position by the end of this academic year and has already reached preliminary terms with one candidate. Now all that stands in our way, is this archaic rule which does nothing to benefit students.
  • Friday, April 11 – Attend Ron Paul Dinner after his speech in the Intramural Meeting, after graciously being invited by the College Libertarians.
  • Friday, April 11 – Attend Council of Commonwealth Student Governments (CCSG) Council weekend, specifically the Crossfire debates between presidential candidates. It is important that UPUA shows support to our commonwealth brethren so that a working relationship is in order.
  • Saturday, April 12 – By this date I will have set up meetings with all of the State College Borough Council Members and Mayor Bill Welch. Currently this has yet to be done, but in the coming week I will speak to contacts I have on the council in order to make this a reality.
  • Sunday, April 13 – Attend Steering Committee meeting, asking all committee heads to each present a plan for the upcoming year now that their committees are filled in.
  • Sunday, April 13 – By this date have a clear outline of Executive Cabinet Positions filled and presented to Committees for approval. While we may need to fulfill more positions if there is a need, this will at least serve the needs of our current initiatives and the Constitution.
  • Monday, April 14 – By this date, speak to UPAC about funding for Test Trial for CATA, if not feasible speak to Safe Ride about implementing their ideas into a solution for late night escort services
  • Monday, April 14 – Attend WebLion meeting regarding Student Portal website.
  • Wednesday, April 16 – Second UPUA Assembly Meeting. Legislation to be passed about funding the ABTS conference, Retreat for UPUA Members, Approval by Assembly of Executive Cabinet Members, Opinion on Facilities Fee, Office Revitalization expenses, as well as at the very least an opinion on the need for a Legal Adviser.
  • Wednesday, April 16 – Attend first Cabinet of Student Leaders (COSL) meeting, where I will discuss the need for reform within the organization to safeguard against it being used for purposes other than networking and collaboration between student governing bodies.
  • Thursday, April 17 – Set up meeting with Centre Area Transporation Authority (CATA) officials. Attend meeting on student groups website or delegate a representative.
  • Friday, April 18 – Write a report on the first weeks in office and outline any areas in need of improvement.
  • Saturday, April 19 – Attend the Blue and White game and attend any events to which I am invited.
  • Sunday, April 20th – By this date meet with Inter-Fraternity Council, Pan-Hellenic Council, NHPC and MGC leadership for preliminary talks regarding collaboration. Also fill Executive Cabinet positions for the two Greeks as outlined in my original campaign platform.
  • Monday, April 21 – Have met with close to every member of the State College Borough Council and have concrete plans in place for, at the very least, ABC committees. Further also have at least preliminary ideas for a Student Landlord Dispute Resolution Center.
  • Monday, April 21 – Hold first UPUA Executive Meeting and attend second UPUA Steering Committee Meeting.
  • Tuesday, April 22 – Meet with UPAC to put in request for funding at the operational level. In the future we will request funding for specific initiatives.
  • Wednesday, April 23 – Third UPUA General Assembly Meeting where we will pass legislation regarding implementation of a Medical Amnesty Policy and ask that UPUA Legal Affairs make a presentation regarding this initiative. We will also deal with new business from the other committees and the steering committee.
  • Thursday, April 24 – Release a report on the state of the new student groups website in consultation with members of the committee Enrique Ortiz, Kathleen Best, Hillary Gupta and Matt Boyd.
  • Friday, April 25 & Sunday April 27 – Retreat for UPUA Members where each member will be required to write their top two initiative ideas. These will serve as a basis for projects in the 2008-2009 academic year.
  • Monday, April 28 – Meet with the newly appointed leadership of the Student Programming Association (SPA) and UPUA Programming Chairwoman Hillary Gupta to create a plan for a healthy working relationship. Specifically, there is a need for their membership to be selected like that of the University Park Allocation Committee (UPAC) by a three person board including the SPA Executive Director, UPUA President and a member of COSL (or a UPUA Cabinet of Student Leaders Presidential Commission).
  • Tuesday, April 29 – Have ironed out a concrete plan on the Student-Landlord Dispute Resolution Center with the State College borough. If this is failing, I will make note of the reasons for its failure and what needs to be done in order to make it a reality in the future. The borough has promised this for ten years and I will ensure that at least some working plans are put in place.
  • Wednesday, April 30 – Pass legislation to have each member of the assembly meet with five student groups and write a collaborative report of what those groups would like to see accomplished. This is vital to a proactive leadership strategy.
  • Thursday, May 1 – Assign a member of the UPUA Assembly to act as a lobbyist to the Pennsylvania legislators in Harrisburg, attending meetings, meet with individual representatives and speaking on behalf of the Penn State student body.
  • Friday, May 2 – Have completed five video blogs, each recorded weekly of the progress of the UPUA.
  • Monday, May 5 – Release a short documentary on the UPUA, chronicling our first forty days in office.

So, this is the first forty days, for which we have a great deal planned. The plan is intended to set a foundation for the upcoming academic year. In the weeks following May 5, I will also be attending the Penn State Board of Trustees meeting at the Nittany Lion Inn. I will also be attending “Leadershape” from May 11 – 16.

Through the summer I’ll be keeping you updated on my activities at Penn State Student Body President through my blog here at Safeguard Old State.

First time visiting Safeguard Old State? Learn more about us by reading our mission and bookmarking us.

I Will Keep My Promise To You, Alma Mater

Editor’s Note: The following editorial appeared in the April 4, 2008 edition of The Daily Collegian. UPUA President Gavin Keirans (formerly SOS Executive Director) will be writing “The Student Body President” blog on Safeguard Old State, keeping the entire Penn State family up-to-date on his activities as student body president.

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Through-out history, student governments have been looked at as meaningless, with the average student asking the question, what do these so-called “leaders” do for me? This year as president, I will make it so that the actions of the University Park Undergraduate Association answer that question.

The past UPUA assemblies have worked hard, so I do not mean in anyway to disrespect their effort. At the same time, they were forced to spend a great deal of their time on bureaucratic roadblocks such as a constitution and bylaws.

For the most part, all of that is settled. Now the UPUA has a responsibility to be a leading voice for students. Two years have been spent planting a foundation, and now it is time to actually accomplish concrete goals.

I have worked tirelessly in my first two years at Penn State for student rights, specifically running for UPUA president as a freshman and leading Safeguard Old State this year. While these are great as far as experience, I give you my vow that I will step up even further and under my term as president, I will work to better the campus climate .

UPUA is getting to work right away this year. Having only been elected Wednesday, we went ahead and held a meeting two weeks ahead of what was scheduled so that we could begin working for students this academic year. We have filled all of the committee chairs and even passed legislation already. In the past this was not accomplished until the following year.

Already I have been in strong talks about fulfilling my platform goals, specifically bringing in a legal adviser. This will be a lawyer who offers free legal advice to students. I have talked to former advisers of this university and even have reached a preliminary agreement on terms with the candidate that will best serve the students.

Now the only thing standing in my way is a roadblock in the form of rules for the student activity fee of which I will work out in the coming weeks.

Further, I have set up meetings with State College Borough officials in order to start planning how to make a Student-Landlord Dispute Resolution Center come to fruition. The UPUA’s goal is to foster a stronger working relationship with officials and the borough council.

In my short time as president, we as students are already facing an alarming issue in the form of the facilities fee which pledges to tax students $200 without a clear plan. Part of me understands the need for better facilities, but I can not in good conscience support my fellow students being taxed for fiscal irresponsibility.

It is in issues like these that UPUA will be your voice, standing up in opposition of injustices. The UPUA has a foundation and the leaders in the organization to make it successful. Now we must produce for students, so I ask that all students hold the UPUA accountable and challenge us to always be doing more for you.

Being in an elected position for the students is a privilege, and with it comes high expectations. The UPUA wants to empower students to lead on their own and we hope to lead the charge to better student life.