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The Sentinel

An Eye on the Penn State Administration

Mayor Welch Opens The Lines Of Communication

According to a story in the today’s issue of The Daily Collegian, Mayor Bill Welch and other county leaders held a question-and-answer session with members of the Penn State student community last night.

Staffer Ian Brown writes:

The questions touched on a broad array of topics, but most focused on the issue of alcohol use and abuse by students.

Welch emphasized throughout the night that most members of the State College community wanted to end the “drinking culture”, not end drinking entirely.

“What we’re trying to stop is dangerous drinking,” he said. “We’re not out to pick on the freshmen who are dumb enough to get drunk.”

A few issues abound here. First (and most importantly), I think it’s great that the mayor of State College is able to take time out of his busy life to talk to students about the issues they care most about. Regardless of one’s political persuasion or personal opinion of Welch, it represents a reasonable amount of incentive to actually engage students in such a manner. So kudos to him.

On the flip side, however, it’s a bit presumptuous to expect Welch and other State College leaders to enact the necessary changes to make this community a more student-centered one. The school’s administration, as well as Centre County’s, doesn’t have the best track record as far as following through on student promises is concerned.

Of course, this community’s leaders have been beating this “dangerous drinking” thing to death. They seem to be fighting a war under blanket terminology when it’s never been made abundantly clear exactly what the “drinking culture” is and how it can be combated. If alcohol attacked us first, and it possessed weapons of mass destruction, maybe they’d have a case…

And on somewhat of the same note: Calling freshman “dumb,” even in reference to a particular group of poor decision-makers, is probably not the best way to drum up support. I’d go so far as to call it an “ethos killer.”

Further in the story, Welch mentions the complications of communicating with the student body at large:

Throughout the evening, both students and borough representatives discussed ways in which the lines of communication could be opened between the two groups.

“How do I communicate with 42,000 students?” Welch asked.

Most students suggested that a greater focus on low-tech means of communication, such as newsletters and fliers, would draw notice from the students.

The best way to get through to 42,000 students? How about student-centered policies and decisions? Not to mention that old-fashioned paper flyers and newsletters often go ignored by students. If Welch hopes to garner student attention and support, he’s going to have to try a little harder than random information sessions and leaflets.

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