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The Sentinel

An Eye on the Penn State Administration

Spanier’s Non-Response To The Canyon Riot of 2008

President Graham Spanier wrote a short letter on the riot after the Ohio State victory to the student body earlier this week, distributed through the Penn State Student Newswire. After reading Penn State Student Body President Gavin Keirans’ throughout, provocative and engaging editorial on the riot published earlier this week in the Centre Daily Times, Mr. Spanier’s letter was … disappointing.

While Mr. Spanier can only think of the same old tired, failed response — student “re-education” programs — Mr. Keirans points out that any meaningful change in the culture of the student body needs first to come from within, not from a program or classroom.

Let’s take a quick look at the different in mind set between Penn State’s two presidents:

Mr. Spanier: With more games and victories ahead we have an opportunity to demonstrate the pride and class for which Penn State is known. Collectively, we must ensure that such destructive behavior does not recur.

University and borough officials, as well as student leaders, will meet to discuss the situation and will identify more responsible ways to celebrate and support our team. Surely we can find ways to make all Penn Staters proud of our success and traditions.

So, Mr. Spanier’s solution is, unsurprisingly, more meetings among the elite administration and closed-door mediation sessions to devise new ways to foster “awareness” and stress “responsible” ways to celebrate.

Those are nice sentiments, but if last weekend’s riot proved anything, it’s that we cannot “ensure that such destructive behavior does not recur” without a deeper and more fundamental change. That change must go beyond more administrative spending on events, posters and flyers.

Now, let’s look at Mr. Keirans and his attempt to cut to the heart of the problem and find a solution that, while more difficult to see fulfilled, would work.

Mr. Keirans: In order for changes to occur in regards to students in State College, there is a need for students to look out for one another and not allow for the behavior of Saturday night to become the norm.

These types of celebrations have been going on since the 1960s, with students gathering in massive force after big victories. They did not always end in destruction and there is a clear need to look at why it occurred in this situation.

Notice that both Mr. Spanier and Mr. Keirans want the same thing: more adult behavior and individual responsibility from Penn Staters. Whereas Mr. Spanier defaults to tired slogans and obsolete PR stunts, though, Mr. Keirans stresses that the next riot can only be deterred by the will and responsibility of the individual Penn Stater standing up to lead his fellow Penn Stater in non-destructive celebration.

  • Click here to read Mr. Keirans’ editorial published in the Centre Daily Times.
  • Click here to read Barbara Brueggebors recollection of the campus celebrations in the 1960s.

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