Remarks by the President to the State College Borough Council at their April 5th, 2021 Meeting

9:23 P.M. EST

MAYOR FILLIPELLI: Alright, now we’ll move to Student Representative reports. Is Mr. McKay from undergraduate students with us?

PRESIDENT McKAY: Yes I am, Mr. Mayor, How are you?

MAYOR FILLIPELLI: Fine, Zach. Go ahead.

PRESIDENT McKAY: Thank you very much. I do have some remarks prepared. Hello and good evening everyone, 

I hope that everyone is doing well and staying as healthy as can be! As always, I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak to you on behalf of our campus’s undergraduate student body, and as usual, I’m excited to update you on matters pertaining to our student government and to that same student body that we serve.

Last week, we concluded our search efforts for a new Student Trustee on Penn State’s Board of Trustees. Just as our organization has been committed to working with this governing body, we look forward to working alongside this individual on the Board of Trustees for the betterment of Penn State and the student body as a whole. While I am not yet at liberty to announce who this individual will be, I can say confidently that they will serve in the role well and provide a much-needed student perspective on the Board. I really do hope that you get a chance to meet with them soon and potentially find some areas of collaboration.

As was mentioned by others before me this evening, March 20th, 2021 marked the anniversary of Osaze Osagie’s murder at the hands of this community’s police force. Whether through attending the various protests and marches in remembrance of Osaze, reading the various letters written about him by friends and family that I’ve had pinned on my wall behind me throughout my term, or through the inspiring leadership demonstrated by Black student leaders in holding our organizations and university accountable to instances of racism over the last year, I am constantly reminded of our need for this community to do better — for its Black students, for its Black young professionals, and for its Black permanent residents. I do not want to waste a moment by failing to continue to call on this body and on ourselves to continue to do all that they can to create a more welcoming, a more inclusive, and a more safe environment for all Penn Staters and State College community members. Of course, this also means creating a safe and welcoming environment for international students, for Indigenous students, for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer students, too — the work cannot stop. But I hope that you know that the University Park Undergraduate Association, under my leadership or another individual’s, will always be here to help in those efforts. 

You may remember the line from the Black Caucus’ statement earlier this year in response to racist Zoom-bombings that I made reference to during my last report: “If we are not safe in our classrooms, on our campus, in our homes, in an online meeting, then where are we supposed to go?” 

It’s on all of us — especially those in leadership roles everywhere — to build that more welcoming, safe, just, and equitable community, and I know that in cooperation with the University, this campus’ Black student organizations, the 3/20 Coalition, and this student government, we can do exactly that. Let us continue in that effort.

Last week also saw the student government’s election for its student representatives and the next Undergraduate Student Body President and Vice President. I’m sure that these individuals — particularly Erin Boas, my successor, and Najee Rodriguez, Vice President Lexy Pathickal’s successor — will serve to represent the classes of 2022, 23, 24, and 25 very well. Should you find the time, I highly recommend extending an offer of congratulations and support to them as they officially begin their terms with their swearing-in next Wednesday, April 14th, at 7:00 pm. And, of course, you are more than welcome to join.

The elections also saw the asking of a referendum question regarding Penn State’s investments. Of the 3,249 votes cast in the referendum by members of the undergraduate student body, 91.13% stand in agreement with the following language which appeared on everyone’s ballot: “Penn State should (1) commit to divestment from its long-term holdings in fossil fuel asset classes as quickly as possible; (2) release information about its current holdings in fossil fuels; and (3) publicly comment on the [university’s] proposed divestiture.” We are still waiting on a statement or report from the University regarding this news. 

As I’ll swear in the next UPUA executives next week, this will be my final report to you as the Undergraduate Student Body President at a regular Borough Council meeting. I’d like to take a moment to thank each of you for your willingness to listen to and respect our students this past year. Although there’s been less rushing to walk to classes, no one can say that it’s been an easy year for students. Many of us, and many of our community members — perhaps some of us here tonight — have experienced tremendous loss and sorrow over the past year. Many of us, still, are dealing with unprecedented “fatigue,” especially concerning classes, as recently discussed in a news article featured in our student newspaper, The Daily Collegian. I am inspired by our students’ and this community’s resilience, fortitude, optimism, and hope. I know that I leave the student government and its student body in good hands, and as has always been my greatest desire, better than we found each of them. Please continue to look upon the students of this campus with kindness, always treat them with the dignity and respect that they deserve, and keep them in your thoughts and prayers — believe it or not, they will need them, too. Until 7:00 next Wednesday, I will continue encouraging my peers to follow COVID-19 guidelines, get vaccinated when they can, and continue to call out racism and bigotry in an effort to build a more welcoming environment for all. After that point, I’ll continue to do the same, just not with this title. Thank you for allowing me the chance to represent these students to you as honestly as I could. It has been my greatest honor, and again, I thank you very much.

MAYOR FILLIPELLI: Thank you, Mr. McKay, and good luck [in the future].

PRESIDENT McKAY: Thank you very much.

MAYOR FILLIPELLI: What are your plans, immediately?

PRESIDENT McKAY: Well, right after I graduate — approximately ten days later — I’ll commission as a Naval Officer in the US Navy and will spend time down in Norfolk, Virginia on the USS Leyte Gulf. 

MAYOR FILLIPELLI: Wonderful. Well, good luck. Congratulations. 

PRESIDENT McKAY: Thank you.