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The Sentinel

An Eye on the Penn State Administration


Why We Student Leaders Are Doing What We’re Doing

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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These past few days have been good ones for me as I enjoy life at a healthy distance from State College and the madness dwelling of late in the halls of Old Main. As I sit here behind my laptop, 200 miles away outside of Philadelphia, I’ve decided it’s far past time to write this entry – it’s one that’s been dying to be put into words for some time now.

Over the course of the past few months I’ve been frequently asked by a number of Penn State students and alumni why I’m doing what I’m doing and why myself and others are doing and saying the things we are as leaders of or within organizations like PSU Stop, USG, The LION 90.7fm, The Daily Collegian, and even UPUA.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that there aren’t a lot of students like those of us who’ve been most vocal these past few months, because, well, most students just don’t care or understand enough of what’s going on to give a damn when they could be playing with their new Nintendo or Play Station…or studying.

If you’re a frequent reader of PSU Stop, you already know where I’m coming from; the things we’ve documented here and elsewhere are troubling, deep-seated problems indicative of a higher failing within the Penn State administrative structure.

If you’re an alumnus, especially, you probably already know that the problems facing this university and it’s students – particularly skyrocketing tuition, unchecked administrative power and the diminishing of students’ rights – are daunting ones that tend not to have easy answers. There is now a palpable feeling of malaise within student life at Penn State.

While all of this is troubling, we realize that oftentimes there is little more that we can do aside from chronicle what administrators like Dr. Vicky Triponey are doing to destroy Penn State as a unique institution. (We wish it didn’t have to be personal with people like Triponey, but they’ve brought this criticism upon themselves as they’ve set out to put their own career advancement above the priority of a rich and organically diverse student-centered university at Penn State.)

To get back to what I started with, the questions are posed often to us why we’re so passionate about fighting these assaults when many of our peers fail to realize what’s even happening. While I don’t mean to seem arrogant, personally, all of us who oppose Dr. Triponey and the reckless spending of President Spanier work pretty damned hard in organizations like PSU Stop.

College is already a physically and mentally demanding time in all of our lives, and working the way we do in the organizations I’ve mentioned above only serve to tax our energies even further. In the end, though, we are fighting this fight because we believe it is ethically the correct thing to do. Sure, I’m disillusioned by the way Penn State operates, but hell, I expected to be when I came here as a freshman.

From the time I was a little boy I knew there were sinister forces at work in this world, and while we can’t always defeat that which we find personally or morally disgusting, we are called as responsible citizens to do everything we can to fight those things. After all, if we don’t fight these assaults on students, who else will? If we don’t fight them now, with everything we’ve got, when will they be fought?

Of course people like me and Brandon Peach and Nick Stathes and Daryll Watson and others wish we could kick back, relax and enjoy the easy life that the world promised we would have as college students. Yet we see things that trouble us not just as students, but as ethically guided citizens and religiously faithful people.

Understandably our battle may, on the surface, appear to be little more than a fight over or for measly, ultimately meaningless student clubs. On some level, that may be true. On a higher level, though, and the level we have embraced most consistently, what these traditions and organizations embody are as important as the name and image of the Pennsylvania State University itself.

We fight not for the dignity of the Undergraduate Student Government itself, or The Lion 90.7FM as a radio station, but for the more important opportunities and values they represent and confer from a time when administrators at Penn State looked upon students as equals and not as apathetic tools paying just for a graduation ticket.

Rather, we fight to protect these traditions and institutions because they represent independence and student autonomy and freedom of thought in an era embroiled thoroughly in a malaise of group think and a lack of true diversity of thought or opinion. Without organizations like USG, The Lion or The Collegian, students lose the opportunity they were afforded through them, and by that they lose much of the value that Penn State is charged with conferring to its young students.

We don’t have all the resources, and by its nature this fight will always be a David v. Goliath story. We won’t necessarily be able to win the fight we’re engaged in with people like Dr. Triponey. Ultimately, we understand that Vicky Triponey isn’t the ultimate evil; she’s just one example of the much deeper problems that run through much of “higher education” across the United States these days.

We’re not naive enough to write it off as something like “liberal bias”. We’re working to make sure that we meet our own personal expectations for ourselves as responsible citizens. It may seem outrageous, but we aren’t afraid to be straightforward in stating that we believe that those like Dr. Vicky Triponey have consistently evidenced an anti-student bias and a remarkable irresponsible attitude toward their charges as Penn State administrators.

Believe us when we say we wish we didn’t have to do what we’re doing. We realize the irony in the fact that a bunch of 19 and 20 year old college kids are the ones trying to remind 40 and 50 year-old adult administrators of where their priorities should rest.

PSU Stop might not always be around, that’s something we had accepted from the start of this thing back in February. In the meantime, though, what we are saying here and through outlets like USG, The Lion 90.7FM and The Daily Collegian are by no means passion-of-the-heart type issues. They are shared by countless students and alumni too unsure to speak up or too engaged in the basic demands of real-world life to devote their time toward.

For these reasons and more I and others do what we do and say what we’ve been saying for so many months now. I am not embarrassed or ashamed to say that I believe God is working through me daily and that he gives me the strength on a daily basis to continue devoting myself to the things I have been.

This type of dedication is possible of us all, if only we are brave enough to realize the power within each of us. If nothing else in this world is certain, it’s true that Penn State is not the one fostering the type of devotion that myself and others have harnessed in our daily lives to what we see as something of a personal vocation.

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