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The Sentinel

An Eye on the Penn State Administration


Safeguard Old State Responds to State Patty’s Day Critics

In response to the concerns of local State College and Penn State University officials, as expressed to the campus newspaper The Daily Collegian, about Safeguard Old State’s plan to assist in nurturing the new, organically-grown student tradition of State Patty’s Day, SOS delivered the following message to prominent leaders from both sides of College Avenue.

In the past, student-owned traditions like Gentle Thursday and the Phi-Psi 500 have united Penn Staters across cultural, ideological, and generational gaps. Promoting State Patty’s Day as an annual celebration of pride in the Penn State student spirit is an important part of Safeguard Old State’s ongoing mission to reinvigorate a vibrant University culture.

We hope for and expect constructive dialog on this issue with borough and University leaders.

*********************

Dear Mayor Bill Welch, Vice President Bill Mahon, Penn State administration & State College leaders:

We at Safeguard Old State hope you will reconsider your rejection, as reflected by comments printed in the Wednesday, January 23 edition of The Daily Collegian, of our group’s efforts to partner with local advocates for student health and safety while simultaneously nurturing a new student-owned tradition here at Penn State.

At Penn State and in State College, the “800-lb. gorilla in the room” has long been an often reckless and irresponsible culture of alcohol abuse. Despite the best efforts by a broad coalition of concerned citizens, the statistics referenced by Bill Mahon in the Collegian article only reinforce that patterns of excessive consumption continue to persist. Undoubtedly, any and all such efforts are well intentioned, but both statistical and anecdotal evidence speak to their limited efficacy.

The membership of Safeguard Old State would caution against equating mere acknowledgment of the undeniable role played by alcohol in the University culture and in our society at large with the endorsement of excessive consumption. Furthermore, we submit that the SOS mission of building a lasting culture of ownership among Penn State students uniquely qualifies our organization to both promote and enhance the messages of entities like UHS and to carry them better and farther than has been done in the past.

For years, downtown landlords have complained that student tenants don’t respect their rental apartments and don’t care in what condition they are left after moving, because they don’t own them. This argument is valid and has application in our current situation.

When any structure, social or organizational, is imposed artificially, from outside the student community, even by well-meaning people with the best intentions, there is an inevitable and fundamental disconnect because the key component of “ownership” is missing. We all have a special standard of care and conduct when it comes to our own property, and State Patty’s Day provides unique potential to speak to students because it belongs to them; it is our property.

Genuine traditions are so powerful precisely because they are not prepackaged and delivered from outside the community of interest, but organically created and grown from within. We believe this power can be harnessed to nurture a psychologically and physically healthy University community. This proactive and innovative approach, students talking directly to students, merits far more than a rash dismissal. Simply put, an energetic culture that celebrates student social life can incorporate alcohol consumption by young adults without automatically promoting destructive overindulgence.

Certainly, SOS did not have to consult with any University or borough entities in order to foster a tradition that belongs to students. That we initiated this communication and requested a constructive give-and-take speaks to, we hope, our genuine interest in promoting a healthier, happier University culture. For these overtures to be summarily rejected out-of-hand is disappointing to say the least.

Certainly, the members of Safeguard Old State cannot guarantee that some students will not make poor decisions on that day (as on any other) nor can we be held responsible for these individual choices any more than Intercollegiate Athletics can be found culpable in bad fan behavior on game days or all Penn Staters can be blamed for two students in offensive costumes. We can, however, provide powerful peer-to-peer leadership that sends a message of moderation and personal responsibility and
shows that vibrant celebration need not include disrespect for others and damage to yourself.

If Penn State truly wants spontaneous and relevant activism from within the student body, then this is it. If local government is serious about finding new ways to curb destructive behavior by Penn State students, it can begin here. For years, community leaders have united to address the challenge of dangerous drinking, yet the problems persist. We are asking for a seat at the table to contribute to the search for effective answers.

Safeguard Old State would submit that Prohibition failed in this country for a reason, and likewise, a narrowly-focused approach that refuses to acknowledge the presence of the “gorilla” will yield similar results here in State College today. We are reaching out to you because we genuinely care about finding better solutions to these problems and believe that Safeguard Old State, as an autonomous student voice operating outside traditional Town/Gown channels, can be an effective messenger in ways that others simply cannot. We are hoping for more than a dismissive, knee-jerk rebuttal.

We would like to meet with community leaders to discuss ways that the resources of State College borough and Penn State University can empower our group to more effectively communicate how students can respectfully and responsibly celebrate the vibrant, youthful culture of Nittany Nation. “It’s Our Time,” and we at Safeguard Old State want to make sure that our peers make the best of it, in every sense.

We anxiously await your response.

Sincerely,
The Directors of Safeguard Old State

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Comments

[…] at Safeguard Old State has been a fresh, dare we say “student-centered” approach to fostering a culture of responsible alcohol consumption by Penn State students.  Along those same lines, members of […]

[…] to learn that same balance and control when it comes to alcohol consumption. Take, for instance, our commentary earlier this semester on the drinking culture in State College and the administration’s well-intentioned […]

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