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The Sentinel

An Eye on the Penn State Administration


Flashback 2004: Vicky Triponey Destroys Tenet Of Shared Governance

Editor’s Note: This blog post originally appeared on the website of “Safeguarding Traditions Of Penn State,” which was the precursor to Safeguard Old State. It appears here for posterity.

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Let’s travel back in time through The Daily Collegian to September 10, 2004. Vice President for Student Affairs Vicky Triponey – after just about 12 months at Penn State – writes a lengthy guest column in the student newspaper discussing our school as the “preeminent student-centered university in the nation.”

Triponey goes on in her column to stress what being student-centered means, saying, “it is about the way we interact with each other and enable full engagement within our university community.” She quickly gets to the point of her column, which was to defend the reasoning behind Penn State’s usurpation of the until-then proud student tradition in USG of regulating and registering student groups.

Triponey declares this reasons for this tradition’s destruction as “clear, logical and having the best interests of the entire student body in mind.” How nice of the administrators in Student Affairs to pontificate to students on what’s really in their own “best interest”. Vicky Triponey reasons that the need to destroyed a core tenet of shared governance at Penn State (in USG having the authority to regulate and register student groups) is actually necessitated by the need to ensure basic civil liberties.

Penn State “willingly carries the ultimate responsibility for protecting the constitutional rights of its students on campus,” says Triponey, “ensuring that everyone has an equal and free opportunity to speak, assemble and practice their beliefs. This fall, the Office of Student Activities has taken back responsibility for the process that enables student groups to become recognized by the university. Previously, this task was delegated by the administration to the Undergraduate Student Government’s Supreme Court, leading a few to question why the university would intercede and take over what has long been a student-managed process.”

The long and short of the matter was that Student Affairs, specifically Dr. Vicky Triponey, unilaterally decided what was in the best interest of Penn State students and made their vision a reality. That vision? To strip the USG Supreme Court of one of its core functions.

Triponey reasons – poorly – that because of basic constitutional rights and civil liberties granted to United States citizens, the process of registering student groups somehow should fall out of the hands of the students themselves but instead should be controlled by administrators. She thinks that because it involves little more than “filing paperwork” that the tradition is one that should be out of students hands – Triponey treated us like children.

Triponey goes on to say that “the USG Supreme Court does an outstanding job in the vital role of mediating disputes among the student government and the more than 600 recognized student groups at Penn State.” She says this in September 2004 and actively and publicly works to destroy USG with Galen Foulke and other student facilitators less than a year later.

“The university’s administration lacks the resources, domain and interest,” says Triponey, “to micromanage the various social, political or service endeavors of the thousands of students who participate in extracurricular and co-curricular activities at Penn State.”

I’ve got news for you Penn State. Neither Triponey nor any other administrators needs to micromanage any aspect of student life in order to effectively regulate and control it – all they needed to do was strip traditional powers like USG of their authority and install an administration-friendly “advocacy” group like UPUA to do their bidding. They’ve done that; they’ve consolidated power for their own gain.

We at PSU Stop know that many in the administration are very familiar with what we do here to safeguarding traditions at PSU Stop and we know we are – to put it mildly – not well liked because of it. Despite the fact that the existence of groups like PSU Stop represent true, organic, grassroots diversity – the kind President Spanier so often likes to say that Penn State fosters – we are looked poorly upon when the only thing we are asking for is our right to student autonomy back.

To understand why we believe that students lost out as the administration gained in Triponey’s stripping of control of student group regulation and registration, Taylor Rhodes student response guest column in The Daily Collegian is an absolute must-read.

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