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The Greek Life

Dispatches from Fraternity Row


Will Spanier Destroy The House That Atherton Built?

Over the past few weeks, there has been much controversy over Phi Delta Theta, with everyone from Dr. Roy Baker, Director for Greek Life, to Gavin Keirans, PSU Student Body President, chiming in to make their voice heard. In fact, the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA), unanimously passed a resolution calling for the administration to back off its overly aggressive attempts to acquire the brothers’ house.

A number of us here at Safeguard Old State have chimed in on the matter, and I’d like to take this opportunity to offer some background on why we are advocating, first, for the brothers’ to be given a second chance, and second, for the administration at Penn State to preserve their house rather than demolish it if the brothers do end up being evicted later this summer.

So, again, we are not condoning the misdeeds of the brothers at Phi Delta Theta, but supporting them out of a belief that they deserve a second chance. While I am not a member of any fraternity, I am a great admirer of the Greek system and the contributions of the Greek community over the course of our history at Penn State. These contributions include the early development of a strong tradition of pride in ourselves and pride in our community here in Happy Valley.

We hope the brothers at Phi Delta Theta are able to resolve their dispute with their national chapter and regain their charter with Penn State University. I don’t mean to condone their misdeeds or their breaking of the rules, because that’s not something any of us at Safeguard Old State were happy to hear.

More than anything it’s important for us at Safeguard Old State that the house at 241 South Burrowes Street not be destroyed if the administration obtains control of the land. Their house was completed in 1905; it has graced the face of our campus with its stately presence and architectural beauty for over 100 years, and was finished in time for President George Atherton to admire its beauty before he died a year later.

I often find myself talking about the importance of preserving our traditions at this University. I do this because, while I appreciate that customs and people change with each generation, it’s our common traditions that help unite each class of Penn Staters as one body and buttress our faith in this school as genuinely unparalleled.

Our common spirit is embodied in the traditions we share with our alumni and will share with future generations of Penn Staters. These traditions, flowing out from that common spirit and certain universally held values, have survived world wars and riots, protests and controversy, near financial ruin and the rise of the modern land-grant University as a powerhouse among its peers throughout the nation.

Do we now, in this Nittany Valley, accept that the traditions and values we have held dear since practically our founding are now fit for the bulldozer?

To be a Penn Stater is to celebrate that certain values are timeless, even if not certain institutions, from our faith in the importance of the Greek system and the way of life and thinking it makes possible for so many students, or our love of student initiative and its historically transformative power to give rise to everything from student philanthropies like the Dance Marathon to student newspapers like The Daily Collegian to student radio like The LION 90.7fm.

So it is with a deep appreciation of these universally held and deeply moving values in youthful student initiative, sportsmanship, fair place, academic excellence and the genuine pursuit of excellence in discovering truth through a liberal and practical education that we call on the administration to stay true to these values that have built and nourished Penn State as we now it.

In this instance, that will mean preserving and restoring the house that Atherton built if the brothers at Phi Delta Theta should lose their appeal and the administration comes to legally acquire the property. That house represents something greater than mere brick and mortar, and to destroy it would to go one step further down the dark road in dismantling and disgracing the physically and historically significant parts of a glorious University campus.

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