The Vicky Triponey Timeline of Terror
Safeguard Old State originally posted the “Vicky Triponey Timeline of Terror” in 2007 to raise awareness of the then-Penn State administrator’s systematic assault against free expression on campus and the University’s remaining mechanisms of shared governance and also to show these acts as consistent with a pattern of behavior established before she came to Happy Valley. Following the termination of Vicky Triponey’s employment at PSU and the beginning of efforts to undo the damage, the Timeline was taken down. Recent events have prompted the decision to re-post it.
In the interest of providing historical context, the document is presented here in its original published form, offering a look back to a period of time when a group of Penn Staters organized opposition to an insular administrative culture that elevated power and secrecy over transparency and open discourse.
Since Dr. Vicky Triponey assumed leadership in Summer of 2003 of Penn State’s Office of Student Affairs, she has systematically dismantled long standing institutions of student representation. With the help of a few well-placed student allies as well as unknowing facilitators, Student Affairs is consolidating all meaningful authority traditionally held by students.
Triponey herself will tell a different tale, but the facts don’t lie. Without viable avenues for dissent, students are now left entirely at the mercy of an administration whose interests often run counter to those of its students. Follow the story of Student Affairs’ three-year power grab, with accompanying articles from The Daily Collegian.
Prologue: The University of Conneticut Years
Long before she was trampling tradition and silencing student voices at Penn State, Vicky Triponey was busy doing it elsewhere – most recently, at the University of Connecticut. What follows is a short recap, establishing a pattern of behavior Triponey would continue at Penn State.
The UConn Years — February 2003:
One year later, as the plan neared fruition, Triponey conducted an “open” student forum…. unfortunately, students were not actually allowed to speak (PDF) at this “open forum.” The Daily Campus, UConn’s student newspaper, spoke out (PDF).
The UConn Years — April 2003:
In response to The Daily Campus’ criticism, Triponey created a new university position to censor the newspaper (PDF). “The independence of The Daily Campus is in serious jeopardy. The voice of the students may be silenced,” (PDF) said the students at The Daily Campus. “Student journalistic integrity is being threatened, and we refuse to sit idly by while it is stolen.” (PDF) Sound familiar, Penn Staters? It should.
The UConn Years — December 2003:
Although she had already arrived at Penn State, Triponey left a legacy in the form of UConn’s new “Free Expression Policy.” (PDF) Following closely, Penn State? All of this brings us to…
The Penn State Years — Farewell to S.O.A.B.
Three months after the arrival of Dr. Triponey, Student Affairs wasted little time in beginning the power consolidation. Student Affairs began its assault on our time-honored tradition of shared governance by eliminating SOAB, the Student Organizations Appeals Board (PDF).
This board, composed of students, faculty, and yes, administrators, was charged with hearing appeals from the University’s five registering organizations (like USG, then student government and IFC, the fraternity council). All power that previously rested with the Student Organizations Appeals Board passed to Dr. Triponey alone.
The Penn State Years — The Attack on Student Radio:
Dr. Triponey’s next move was to inform the student manager of The LION 90.7fm, the campus radio station, that her office would terminate all funding for the station unless her office were given direct control of it, both financially and content-wise.
Triponey famously warned “The first thing to go will be Radio Free Penn State,” the station’s popular political talk show notorious for its frank criticism of PSU’s administration.
The Penn State Years — The Daily Collegian & Others Speak Out
The Daily Collegian as well as the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) and others spoke out in support of The Lion 90.7FM. The Daily Collegian printed a number of articles and editorials in support of the station throughout 2004.
The Daily Collegian in April 2004: “Cutting The Lion’s funding sends hypocritical message to students.” (PDF) Again in September 2004: “Student radio outlet fighting to stay alive despite funding cut.” (PDF) And again in October 2004: “UPAC funding keeps The Lion on air.” (PDF)
The Penn State Years — Triponey Strips Governing Powers From Students
Next, even as public opinion turned on the issue of The LION 90.7fm’s funding, came Triponey’s boldest stroke yet. Citing flimsy excuses, Dr. Triponey stripped the student Supreme Court (a part of USG) of its power to register student organizations.
This act snuffed out an extremely effective nearly 50-year tradition that symbolized the mutual respect that had once existed between students and administration. The power to register and recognize student groups, as with other powers before, passed to Triponey alone. She created the “Center for Student Engagement” (PDF) which now employs over 12 full-time staffers to do the work that volunteer students did before within USG.
The Penn State Years — Students Across Campus React In Outrage
Students, none too pleased with Triponey’s theft of their rights and rampant fiscal irresponsibility, spoke out using the editorial pages of The Daily Collegian. Throughout the fall of 2004, letters flooded into the newspaper. A few such letters are reproduced here.
On August 31: “Process for groups defies student rights.” (PDF) On Sept. 7: “Assembly upset with university power grab.” (PDF) On Sept. 10: “Students should be outraged at group process.” (PDF) On Sept. 13: “Administration afraid of not having control.” (PDF) On Oct. 8: “Officials: Group registration not within power of students.” (PDF)
The Penn State Years — Destruction of Student Government
Having already discarded many of Penn State’s decades-old traditions of shared governance, Triponey moved next for the final blow. Two-term USG President Galen Foulke, also a member of the Board of Trustees in exchange for acting on Triponey’s behalf, vigorously pursued the establishment of a “student advocacy group” — today known as the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) — to replace student government in USG.
Foulke received monetary support to the tune of $3,000 and institutional support from Student Affairs. Without regard for the proud traditions of Penn State, Foulke drove the nail into the coffin of student governance with a sham referendum in the spring of 2006.
As before, many students spoke out in a cry of protest, but to no avail. Follow the timeline of event in the pages of The Daily Collegian: “Candidates criticize student government overhaul.” (PDF) “UPUA will not mend problems with USG.” (PDF) “USG restructuring plan fails to incorporate ideas that represent students.” (PDF) “USG restructuring must have students’ approval.” (PDF) “Students to vote on USG structure.” (PDF) “Foulke sets up group.” (PDF) “USG Senate opposes advocacy group.” (PDF) “Students for Real Advocacy: PSU funding contradicts mission of UPUA.” (PDF)
The Penn State Years — Students Left Without Voice or Leadership
Despite the fact that less than ten percent of students voted, the administration in Vicky Triponey and Graham Spanier proudly dissolved all relations with student government in USG. Ultimately, the referendum vote was 60-40 percent in favor of UPUA, meaning that six percent of University Park students preferred UPUA, four percent preferred USG, and 90 percent where uncertain.
In formally dissolving relations with the student government in March 2006 and instead recognizing the then-nonexistent UPUA (leadership would not exist for UPUA until elections that took place in October 2006), the administration left students without any champion for their concerns — in either USG or UPUA — for a stunning eight months.
The Penn State Years — Triponey’s Future Lies In Students’ Hands (2006)
Today, Triponey continues her war against students right at Penn State, though perhaps more subtlely than in past years. Still left without a strong student government, the administration pushes through one anti-student policy after another, whether in the form of bans on Paternoville, food and drink bans in classrooms or a general lack of control of the student activity fee.
As students at Penn State today, we face the enormously negative pitfalls of administrative incompetence, and our children will face an even darker future if we do nothing today. It’s far past time to rise up and say enough! We are Penn State. We bleed Blue and White. We exist to be serviced by the administration, not visa versa. We are at Penn State for an education, not to be fleeced by a corporation.
Will you rise up and join with us to Safeguard Old State? Vicky Triponey must go, for the sake of Old State, and we only we as students can make that happen.
Vicky Triponey fired from Penn State University (Sept. 14, 2007)
Vicky Triponey has been forced out of Penn State, leaving a more damaging legacy of the destruction of student independence and self-governance than even during her time at the University of Connecticut.
- Student Affairs loses leader (PDF) – The Daily Collegian
- Student groups adjust to leadership change (PDF) – The Daily Collegian
Safeguard Old State maps “Roadmap for Change” for Student Affairs reforms (PDF) – The Daily Collegian Sept. 27, 2007
A Toxic Legacy (Sept. 16, 2008)
Even a year later, virtually no one from within the administration or from student life at large is interested in commenting on Triponey, whose legacy remains toxic:
A Rehabilitated Career Amidst a Tragedy of Child Pedophilia (2012)
In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse tragedy, Vicky Triponey began speaking about herself to national media. Her narrative today is one of brave attempts to reform a culture of power and secrecy — a narrative starkly at odds with the experience of students documented in her timeline at Penn State and the University of Connecticut.