Remarks by the President to the State College Borough Council at their November 9th, 2020 Meeting

8:45 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening everyone, it’s great to see all of you. I hope you had a nice weekend and are ready to tackle yet another exciting week. 

The last few weeks have been busy for University Park’s undergraduate students and their student government, especially in light of a national election. I’d like to take a moment and thank everyone who exercised their right to vote this past Tuesday, and those who helped others exercise that right, especially the County Commissioners, too. 

The UPUA spent the last few weeks civically engaging our students, whether by working hard to piece together an informational voters’ guide for students, facilitate COVID-safe Voter Registration events and an Election Day Celebration outside of our HUB-Robeson Center, and get students to and from their on-campus polling center utilizing one of Penn State’s Blue Buses. I’ve also been in contact with the UP student body via email to encourage them to exercise their right to vote on Election Day. As we move closer towards the primaries, we would very much like to continue this civic engagement on the local level. The UPUA hopes to  collaborate with you to find those nonpartisan engagement opportunities as we approach the upcoming primaries.

Last week, the UPUA’s General Assembly passed two important and historical pieces of legislation in the efforts of supporting a Land Acknowledgement at Penn State. The UPUA and the Indigenous People’s Student Association have worked together for the last few months to support the IPSA’s efforts in a University land acknowledgement in recognition of the indigenous land which our University was built on. Should the Borough Council be interested in adding to those efforts on behalf of the Borough, please let me know and I’ll be sure to put you in touch with our Vice President, the Chair of our Justice and Equity Committee, and the President of the IPSA who have been leading those efforts. 

On October 24th, I joined many of my student government colleagues in releasing a video supporting of the Penn State Climate Action Petition, and the demands it makes therein, including the rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions with the goal of reaching the point of net zero emissions between 2030 and 2040, a firm commitment to divest from fossil fuels, and the prioritization of our research efforts to combat climate change. I believe Penn State has a unique opportunity — and a moral obligation — to take stronger action to combat climate change and the injustices it brings about, whether environmental, social, or otherwise. Last Wednesday, the UPUA’s General Assembly passed Resolution #38-15, officially supporting the petition on behalf of the UP Undergraduate student body. I look forward to advocating to our administration, to our Board of Trustees, and more. You can find my full remarks and the Assembly’s Resolution endorsing the petition at upua.org. Should there be any interest of this Council in taking action in these areas as well, please do let me know.

I am sickened by and strongly condemn the actions taken by the residents of 329 East Prospect Avenue, as described by the email sent to students and their families by Penn State University and the State College Borough this past Friday. Over Halloween weekend, the property’s residents held a large gathering which resulted in the dispicable mistreatment of an underaged female student. The student was found lying on a nearby sidewalk, intoxicated and unconscious, allegedly left there by the organizers of the party. Words cannot express how relieved I was to learn that she was treated and has since fully recovered. However, this heartless action, as well as allegations of sexual assault during the same weekend, need to be addressed.

Let me be clear: this is no way to treat any human being, let alone a fellow student and peer. That the residents perpetuating this danger would consider themselves contributors to community service or genuine philanthropy — historically core tenets of Greek Life — is morally wrong, and I am encouraging anyone recently recruited by them to disassociate themselves from the house immediately. In no way do the actions of the house and its residents embody the values of the Penn State Community or its Student Body.

I urge you to seek further legal action against the property, and I am hopeful that the Penn State administration will assist in those efforts. If doing so will protect even one more of our students from sexual assault, alcohol poisoning, or hazing, it will have been worth it. Until this threat to the Penn State and State College communities is contained, I am urging my fellow students to remain vigilant and look out for one another, as well as to avoid any type of gathering at 329 Prospect Ave, and report those they see happening real-time. Thank you for your transparency and commitment to making our community aware of this danger. 

To keep up with what the UPUA’s been up to, including the legislation of the General Assembly, you can visit our website at www.upua.org. If there are any questions or comments which I might be able to relay back to the student government or my fellow student organizations, I’d be happy to hear them, relay them, or answer them. Otherwise, please take care, stay safe, and enjoy a happy Thanksgiving.