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The Sentinel

An Eye on the Penn State Administration

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The Phi Delt Saga Continues: Today, A House Fire

The Phi Delta Theta saga continues today with news that a house fire has forced the students out of the former fraternity. Most, if not all, are moving to Eastview Terrace in housing provided at no cost by the administration. This is the second fraternity house fire in recent weeks.

With the students now physically out of the house, the administration’s argument for aquiring the property will become even stronger. After all, ostensibly if the University owns the property, such things won’t happen. (Of course, if the University does aquire the house, nothing will happen there, because they plan to demolish the historic home.)

It’s a shame that this home, built by students during the presidency of our beloved George Atherton, is now likely to fall into the hands of an administration that has demonstrated little regard years for preserving the physical aspects of our campus heritage.

Remember the unceremonious destruction of the park benches on the Mall, which were a Senior Gift of the Class of 1900? Remember to destruction of the Old Creamery in order to create a new, greener seating area? Soon, we may sadly add the Phi Delta Theta house to this list.

Safeguard Old State has, since the beginning of this controversy, called for the preservation of the house, regardless of who owns the property or which fraternity occupies the building. It should be renovated by either its alumni or the administration, and it should remain a fraternity home for future generations.

Will anyone stand up for this landmark?

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Response To Collegian: State Patty’s ‘Lacks Relevance’?

The Daily Collegian ran a scathing attack earlier this week on State Patty’s Day, a student-created tradition which has provided an alternative spring celebration for the past three years. Since that time, tens of thousands of Penn Staters have participated in the holiday, joining Facebook groups and buying t-shirts to show their pride.

State Patty’s Day is a student holiday — it’s not managed top down other than a few students picking a date. Safeguard Old State’s “sponsorship” is little more than for morale — to show someone believes in the idea of a student holiday that specifically involves drinking that is, at the same time, not catastrophic.

State Patty’s Day took on a life of its own after the first year; it’s not something that can be controlled or regulated because the entire student body and many alumni take part in it in an organic way — they just show up downtown.

So many people coming together — even if it is to drink — is pretty remarkable at a University where so many (The Daily Collegian included) bemoan mass apathy and dis-engagement.

(This is not even to get into the fact that State Patty’s Day — roundly derided by The Daily Collegian, our mayor and administrators — causes three time less the volume of crime than Blue-White weekend, which is universally beloved, and rightly so.)

If The Daily Collegian and administrators, faculty and all the stakeholders at Penn State are serious about real responsible drinking, you would think they would have the intellectual courage and consistency to admit that responsible drinking by definition will have to involve drinking. Will State Patty’s Day lead a new revolution in real, moderate, responsible adult consumption in Happy Valley?

I don’t know, but it’s certainly got a better shot than The Daily Collegian’s suggestion to “just ignore” drinking. As it anyone at the newspaper even believes that. I’ve spent time at bars — the Phyrst, Pickles, Rathskeller and others — with reporters and editors from The Daily Collegian in the past, and I’ll bet I’ll see at least a few of them downtown on Feb. 28.

The bottom line: it’s easy to sit back, criticize and condemn. It’s much more difficult to try, to offer an alternative to the failed “Late Night,” board games mentality that pretends to address dangerous drinking. If we want people to stop drinking dangerously, we have to teach them and training ourselves in health drinking — that’s the potential of State Patty’s Day.

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Greeks Need To Stay On

Greeks need to stay on as executive for THON! No questions asked.

“IFC President-elect Luke Pierce introduced a one and a half page document detailing the policy for the creation of Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon committee. The committee will be formed to examine the AVP positions, which were recently brought into the spotlight when Thon officials proposed moving them off of the Thon overall committee.

The committee will consist of ten members appointed by the IFC and PHC presidents and executive vice presidents, according to the document. Committee members must have “expert knowledge about Thon” and “the ability to think simultaneously objectively and progressively about the issues surrounding the uncertainty of the future of the Thon Greek Overall Chairpersons.”

The IFC plans to explore the positions and discuss areas for growth, Pierce (junior-economics) said. It should be a call to action to the greek community, he added.

“Many people are seeing this as an attack on the greek community,” Pierce said. “People need to look at this as an opportunity for us to show the community that we can step up and improve these positions with creative and innovative ideas.”

The committee seats will be filled by Jan. 14, 2009, and the committee will be required to submit two reports, in writing, to the President’s Council on Jan. 20 and Feb. 3, according to the policy. The first report should include information about initial findings and comment on the progress of the committee while the second report should include a direct plan of action, according to the document.

Former Daily Collegian staff member and PHC President-elect Mairys Joaquin said the councils do not want to keep pushing back the issue.

“Yeah, it’s a time crunch but we can’t waste any time,” Joaquin (junior-journalism) said. “We want to have this resolved by Thon 2009 because it shouldn’t be about the drama, it’s taking away from the main focus, which is Thon.”

The plan will make the roles a lot more vital and at the same time benefit Thon, Joaquin said. Bringing together more minds to discuss the positions will help the situation more, she added.”

Greeks need to be in a prominent role while THON is still functioning.  Do to some past in mistakes, THON is a University affiliated event.  The greeks not only need to re-assert themselves in this battle, but need to reclaim THON as their own and take back what is rightfully theirs.  Luke Pierce appears to be poised for greatness, and I think that under his tutelage, greatness is destined for the Greek Community.

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A Closer Look At The State College ‘Tap Tax’

The State College Borough Council has been making headlines recently in The Daily Collegian for its proposed ten percent tax on “poured drinks” in downtown bars. The usual reactions, some for and some against, have been documents in the pages of our newspaper.

Yet, when we cut out all the rhetoric, what is this tax really about? Is it simply another way for the borough to raise money? Can a tax that will impact students and alumni of Penn State really be a “dream tax” for a woman who heads the borough council neighboring one of America’s great colleges?

Without the students, the town would neither be as economically vibrant nor as “recession proof” (as an article put it yesterday), for our shared community relies on the cash brought in by the students.

And while few students become permanent residents, all students end up paying into the State College Borough’s financial pot in property taxes and other residence taxes that are paid indirectly through their monthly rent.

The bottom line: this tax — a “tap tax,” if you will — represents neither a thoughtful application of the intelligence of the Borough Council in solving their budget shortfall nor a meaningful attempt to combat excessive consumption at the bars.

A new approach to the drinking issue is warranted at this critical juncture in our community and across our university campus. As this debate unfolds, Safeguard Old State will be here to offer commentary and direction for new ways of approaching the issue of this “tap tax.”

Join us as we attempt to get to the root causes of this tax and the drinking culture at Penn State.

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Drinking Tax Won’t Solve Drinking “Problem”

The State College Borough Council is proposing a tax on “poured drinks” in our shared town.  Before I delve into the many flaws in this plan, I will quote The Daily Collegian:

“”We all want it,” Council President Elizabeth Goreham said. “This is our dream tax.”

In its capacity as a member of the University-Community Network of the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities, the Borough has spent about a year drafting an ordinance that would levy a ten percent tax on poured alcoholic drinks, Goreham said.

The next step, Goreham said, is to lobby local state legislators like Sen. Jake Corman, Rep. Scott Conklin or Rep. Kerry Benninghoff to introduce a bill about the tax.

University Park Undergraduate Association President Gavin Keirans said Monday that the measure will lead to higher prices, not a weakened alcohol culture.

“This is not a dream tax,” Keirans said. “By pointing a tax at something that’s clearly consumed mostly by students, it’s sending the wrong message.”

Penn State spokesman Bill Mahon said the proposal represents an “interesting” approach to dealing with State College’s alcohol culture.

“For our part of it, we have to turn to tuition and state appropriations to help pay for what happens on campus [as a result of alcohol abuse],” he said. “Why not turn to, as a revenue source, some of the folks who are selling the alcohol?”

These funds could pay for the police services and vandalism costs associated with alcohol abuse, Mahon said.

Penn State will not take an active lobbying role, Mahon said.

“That’s really a borough decision,” he said. “We wouldn’t interfere in any way at all.””

Let’s take it from the top: it is their “dream tax,” something that they have wanted for a long time. Usually when I dream of something, it is the highest, most unimaginably unachievable goal.  It is something that will change my life, and while this is no “dream tax,” it could certainly change my waking hours. I will now have to pay more for drinks poured at the bars, but will I change my drinking habits?

I honestly have no answer for this question, right now I have no money any way so going to the bars is out of the question, and so changing my drinking culture is seemingly impossible for them.  Next, lets get at the message this sends, the borough is tired of dealing with our drinking “problem” and so doing the only thing they know how, levy a tax.

It is time for the borough council to take a breath and think about what they are doing, in the past two weeks, they have proposed two new heavy taxes on their constituents.  A 14% increase last week, and now another 10% today.  Both taxes, are designed to hit a specific demographic.

In this hard time for the economy, most places are cutting back, from restaurants, to public schools, everyone is being forced to do more, or at the least the same, with less.  In today’s economy there is simply no other option.  While the Borough is choosing not only to do more, but to do more and take more.  I cannot seem to justify the borough’s bulging budget already, I cannot imagine what it will be after these new rounds of taxes.

It is time for the council to take a bite of humble pie, they must be grateful for everything that we do have, a wonderful geography, happy enthusiastic constituents, our health, and their positions on council.  I cannot imagine how much longer full time residents of State College will entertain these asinine attempts at solving a problem with a tax, and trying to disguise it as need.  I for one will not take this much longer, and I am seriously considering giving the next council member up for re-election in my district a run for their money, because I am tired of them running around on mine.

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New Concerns With New Ticket Distribution Problem

With Penn State Football going to the Rose Bowl, for the first time since 1994, and Our First BCS bowl game since 2005 there obviously is going to be a tremendous problem, when trying to figure out how to distribute the limited number of student tickets that will be allocated to the student body.

“Several factors, including student safety, class attendance and the number of tickets allotted to students, were taken into consideration by Penn State to determine how to sell student tickets for the Nittany Lion’s Rose Bowl appearance on Jan. 1, a university official said Sunday.

It was announced last week that students must log on to GoPSUSports.com as early as 6:30 a.m. Saturday to find out where the tickets will be sold at 8 a.m. Tickets for Penn State’s third appearance in the Rose Bowl cost $145 each. Students may purchase up to two tickets.

“The allocation of tickets will go much more quickly this way, and it really does not justify setting up an entire sale online,” said Greg Myford, associate athletic director of marketing and communication. “Also, the short time that we have available, we anticipate a quick turnaround.”

The Saturday sale was decided so as not to interfere with classes, Myford said.

“In the past, we did the sale on a weekday and students skipped classes, obviously something we are trying to avoid, especially heading into finals,” he said.

He also cited the cold as a reason for holding off on announcing the location of the sale.

At this time of year, the university is worried students camping out would become unnecessarily ill, he said.”

The Administration, particularly the Athletics Office, has created a very practical, and easy process.  They are in a sense helping students out by not requiring them to waste a lot of their time “out in the cold” but they are also concerned about health as well.  Also this process can really weed out those people who may not be interested in going to the game, but profiting off of the ticket scalping capabilities.  The Administration has done a wonderful job so far, and if nothing goes wrong this plan for ticket distribution should be an overwhelming success!

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A New Day For The Activity Fee

The Student Activity Fee, one of the more secret funds here at Penn State, as in we do not know exactly where our money is going, is turning a new leaf.  It is becoming progressive, it is thinking, well not it but the persons who should and now the persons who are in charge of it.  Under tremendous pressure from both University Park Undergraduate Association and the Graduate Student Association Presidents, the Activities fee will now fund both organizations directly.

“The University Park Undergraduate Association and the Graduate Student Association learned they would receive a cut of the student activity fee each year at Friday’s Student Activity Fee Board (SAFB) meeting.

A proposal by the board’s Subcommittee for Policies and Procedures to directly allocate a set portion of the student activity fee to both organizations was approved, meaning both groups will have guaranteed funding every year and will not need to submit requests to the University Park Allocation Committee (UPAC).

The amount each will receive will be determined next semester by SAFB, which will consider budgets that UPUA and GSA will submit and allocate accordingly.”

It is time, for this to happen, the stage or the table has been set for greatness now that the main course is fully prepared.  I am going to compare this to a meal if we haven’t all figured it out.  In the past, there was no room for either student government to claim that they had the capability or resources, or even need to handle this kind of money.  Under the guidance of Gavin Keirans and Alfonso Mendoza, both student governments are now capable of handling this sum of money.

Like setting the table, electing Mendoza and Keirans set the stage for revitalizing two faltering organizations.  Then they served the appetizer and made their organizations relevant on campus, by providing leadership on many issues including the facilities fee itself, and most recently an online book swapping program designed to save any Penn State Student money in our tough economy.  Next came the main course, The Legal Services and the Tenant Landlord Mediation Center.  These programs, now fully capable, and ready to be an effective aid to student life, await only one thing, money.  President Spanier, and Damon Simms alike were the patrons, wanting to fund student betterment such as this, but not ready to commit to something they did not believe in.  Now Mendoza, and Keirans have prepared a meal, fine enough for a President and Vice President, and they are ready to eat.  

Plaudits to both parties, both student and administrative leaders are thinking progressively for the betterment of student life.  Our University, will be much better off as a whole with the capability to send students to a almost outside source for aid with outside of the academic problems.  I hope I never have to use these services, but I am very pleased to know that there is a helping hand there if I need it.

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Tis The Season

As I get colder and colder on my way to Deike Building,  I notice something else, the fraternity houses decorated to the “T”.  Call me what you will, but if you are christian, jewish, muslim, whatever, you have to appreciate the symbolism.

“Christmas lights created a smiley face outlining windows, a Nittany Lion on the bushes and a rose next to the Lion outside the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house Thursday night, all aspects which helped them capture first place.

The Off-Campus Student Union along with the Interfraternity Council (IFC) hosted its third annual Holiday Lights tour which featured fraternity houses on and off campus decorated for the holidays. About 35 people rode on the bus tour, which traveled by the 26 houses that registered for judging.

Houses are judged on holiday spirit, creativity, difficulty, and originality with possible bonus points being awarded to those houses that go above and beyond, said Tim Uhrich, Off-Campus Student Union co-chair for Holiday Lights.

“We’re trying to foster better relations between the community and greek life,” Uhrich (senior-political science and history) said. “They’re lightin’ up the town and getting in the holiday spirit.”

On Burrowes Street, the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house went for a more classical approach to decorating their house. The brick house was decorated with wreaths tied with red ribbon, which were highlighted by spotlights. The bushes donned hundreds of white lights.”

It just sets the stage for what is coming, a holiday about family.  More importantly, it symbolizes a community, the greeks, reaching out trying to make a positive impact on the community, using a collaborative approach with the Off Campus Student Union.

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Greeks Belong At Helm Of Thon

The Greeks, do many things very well, one of the things they do very well, is philanthropy.  Say what you will about the “Animal House” mentality, the Greeks are way more then that.  It is embarrassing to even hear that there is discussion about removing greeks from the over all positions of THON. 

“Discussions among two greek councils and the Thon overall committee regarding the councils’ associate vice president (AVP) positions’ future have caused concern for some greek leaders.

The Interfraternity Council (IFC) and Panhellenic Council (PHC) AVPs could lose their seats on the overall committee, depending on the results of the discussions.

There are constantly changes to the Interfraternity Council/Panhel-

lenic Dance Marathon overall committee, said Caihlin Durkin, PHC AVP for Thon and Greek Sing, but the idea to move the AVP position from an overall position to a captain position was something that upset the greek community.

“It’s important to the tradition at Penn State,” Durkin (senior-supply chain and information systems) said. “We’re proud of our traditions and our history. I think we need to keep it on the overall committee and give the position more responsibilities as need be.””

The greeks helped to create THON, to take leadership away from them would be like trying to separate, a parent and their child.  All year greeks strive not only to top last years total, but to put themselves out there to attempt to make a difference in the lives of people that need their help.  Who is to say that they cannot make the overall decisions any more.  Would our community advocate the separation of a parent and child?  I do not think so.

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Spanier May Leave

According to “prominent democrats,” President Spanier may be in consideration for the cabinet of Barack Obama.  

“”Prominent Democrats” have named Penn State President Graham Spanier a potential pick for President-elect Barack Obama’s Secretary of Education, according to an early report by a Washington political journalist.

“When you talk to Democrats in Washington, they mention his name. He has a record of accomplishment that people here seem to respect,” said Marc Ambinder, associate editor of The Atlantic, who wrote a post about Spanier’s potential spot on an Obama shortlist for the position Tuesday on his blog.

Though Ambinder said he doesn’t know “whether he’s being vetted or not or what a vet would entail,” he added Spanier is “absolutely in the mix.”

Spanier, who is a registered Democrat, wrote in an e-mail Wednesday he was out of town, had not seen Ambinder’s blog and does “not plan to comment on this speculation.”

Wouldn’t that be nice?  I would love to see someone else in Old Main, who was not struggling to make a profitable corporation, but a real, complete University.  I hope Barack picks Spanier, it will be good for Penn State if he was not here any more!