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The View from the Valley

An Exploration into Town-Gown Relations


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The gap between Town and Gown Grows

There is no doubt that there is a gap between the views of town and gown.  The towns people are well represented by the CDT, and the students more so by the Daily Collegian.  I found a piece on the CDT’s website, that illustrated this perfectly.

“But, hey the Nittany Lion faithful had a right to party. The football team had never won a Big Ten game at the Horseshoe. A celebration is called for no matter who has to pick up the bill for cleaning up the mess. Right? Wrong.

I had to chuckle this week as I heard a co-worker, a Penn State graduate, say something along the lines of, “Those kids don’t know how to riot. We did it much better when we were in school.”

Now, there’s something to be proud of.

Another explanation I heard for last week’s destruction was that Penn State fans haven’t had a really big road win to celebrate since a 1999 triumph against Miami. Maybe that’s more an indictment of the program, but is it a reason to start breaking things?

Call me crazy, but what’s wrong with having a celebration where the fans just celebrate? Display your school colors, scream for joy, sing the school song or high-five your buddies and the rest of the crowd.

Isn’t the whole thing supposed to be about the “joy” of the moment?”

There is such a vast gap between “us” and “them” that needs to be bridged, it is up to us as students to work with them, not to create such standoff, or controversy with the town that tries to welcome us into their community.  If we expect any kind of respect, or voice in their community, we must show them the respect that we strive for, and not destroy the work they do.

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Perspective: The Human Reaction To The Riot

So much has been said about last weekend’s riot in Beaver Canyon that anything more risks commentary overdose. That being said, it’s worth looking to the perspective of a few local residents and alums to get a more realistic and human take on this topic.

From the Centre Daily Times:

Oh my. What has the culture of this community come to?

Once upon a time, students were allowed to carry goal posts down the street in celebration of a big victory! It was celebrated and people were happy!

Now, everyone is so uptight and indignant. People weren’t hurt (except by the cops). State College and the big money makers (high rise owners) won’t feel $10,000 of the property damage. They have made their millions off the students for decades now.

Stop this police state already!

Another commenter said the following:

This is why yet another in a long string of destructive, celebratory student riots occurred. The participants lacked respect for law, order, and the State College community. There is a lack of Penn State administration and student leadership. It’s that simple.

Both of these comments are an accurate take on the events that unfolded last weekend. The culture in higher education — not just at our university — has so decayed that students have fewer and fewer means by which to experience real, raw human interaction of the kind that’s not coordinated by class or committees.

It’s no surprise, then, that when a win like the one we experienced over our long time rivals occurs, students flood the streets in celebration and go overboard, perhaps egged on by law enforcement even more than deterred by them.

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State College & A Student Relations Committee

The Daily Collegian reported today on an idea first proposed by Safeguard Old State Executive Director Chris Morell on Oct. 13 at a meeting of the State College Borough Council. Mr. Morell proposed the creation of a Student Relations Committee of the State College Borough, to be established as a formal ABC committee in our town as a means to foster better communication, understanding and policy conflict resolution.

Now, in the wake of last Saturday’s downtown mini-riot after the Ohio State game, the need for such a committee is only further proven. In our vision of the Student Relations Committee, it would not have formal binding authority in its decisions, but would instead serve as a public means of discussion among town and gown on an advisory level.

The Daily CollegianRiot Heightens Town’s Concern – Oct. 30 – Saturday’s downtown riot after Penn State’s victory over Ohio State “heightens the importance of having an ongoing, open communication link between the town and the students,” State College Borough Council President Elizabeth Goreham said Wednesday.

Informal discussions among council members have centered around the idea of a new committee designed to foster increased communication between students and council members since the idea was originally raised by Safeguard Old State Executive Director Chris Morell at a borough council work session Oct. 13.

“It would only make our community better, and it wouldn’t take that much work,” Morell said then. “Whoever it is, whenever it is, as long as it is.”

Since Morell’s presentation, council discussions about the idea have largely been centered around the notion of a formal authority, board or commission (ABC) — a transition spearheaded by council member Theresa Lafer.

“If we had an ABC … we would have a permanent voice for town-gown relations,” Lafer said after the council’s Oct. 20 meeting. “My feeling is that it would make [town-gown communication] permanent, legitimate, ongoing.”

Now, I know some concern was raised by Borough Manager Tom Fountaine. Mr. Fountaine is concerned that such a committee could “duplicate” the mission of the Off Campus Student Union (OCSU), commissioned by the administration in 2004 to act as a liaison between town and gown.

While Mr. Fountaine’s concerns are not entirely without merit, Safeguard Old State is pushing for the creation of an independent Student Relations Committee of a specific makeup that would transcend whatever services that the OCSU could produce as an administratively controlled entity.

Safeguard Old State’s Executive Staff will be publishing a formal article on our website very soon with our proposal to the State College Borough Council.

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Penn State deserves to be #1

WE deserve to be number 1.  For the school with some of the most rowdy fans in all of the land.  Where else do we see street signs being uprooted, just because a football game was won.  Have you ever been to a place where people, are willing to state pepper spray in the face, because they are so happy?

The “riots” that occurred Saturday night, were nothing more then a release of a excitement building for years.  It should be embraced and shown for all of the world to see, how we can come together, and support a common cause, even if it is just football.  On Saturday night we were a student body, even if we were destructive, we did not hurt any one, and we did not have to go to an administrator for permission.  We made history on Saturday night, lets enjoy it Penn State, let the ride begin, it is going to be wild.

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The Liquor License: Tony Sapia’s Last Stand?

Tony Sapia, owner of three of State College’s most infamous bars — Tony’s Big Easy, Candy Bar and Lounge and Lulu’s Nightspot (formerly Club Love) — may soon be parting with the liquor license his businesses depend on.

As The Daily Collegian reports, Mr. Sapia’s liquor license renewal earlier this year was denied by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) based on a variety of violations at his establishments, including the 2006 murder of Penn Stater Michael Donahue — stabbed in the heart by a visitor from the Bronx.

The Daily CollegianLiquor License Still Undecided – Oct. 24 – “Over the years the establishment had compiled a list of liquor code violations and also was repeatedly the scene of disturbances where the local police were called in,” Chapman said in July.

Francis X. O’Brien, Sapia’s lawyer, filed an appeal in July on behalf of Sapia. The bars can remain open while the appeal processes, Chapman said in July.

During 2005 and 2006, the bars received fines for liquor code violations, including using a loudspeaker that could be heard outside and selling drinks at a discounted price for a period before midnight exceeding two hours, Chapman said in July.

In February 2006, Penn State student Michael Donahue was stabbed to death inside Club Love, now known as Lulu’s Nightspot, police said.

If Sammark loses the appeal, the liquor license will “effectively disappear,” Chapman said in July.

It’s difficult for me to argue that Mr. Sapia’s license should be renewed. In terms of both anecdotal evidence and personal experience at his bars, I’ve discovered them to be some of the seediest and violence-prone in town.

For now, though, I remain on the fence, and will wait to see what the final ruling is concerning Mr. Sapia’s liquor license. If he wins his appeal, though, let’s hope and pray that he’s learned a lesson and will tone down the atmosphere of his businesses.

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Borough Council Could Double Drinking Fines

Every Monday the State College Borough Council meets at 7:30pm downtown. It is my hope that students will begin to go to these meetings as the decisions and discussion that takes place often adversely affects more then half of the students here at University Park.

If you read The Daily Collegian you can see the topics that are usually debated at Borough Council, most recently to allow chickens to be considered as pets in the burrow. However, last night there was discussion and movement by members of the Council to not only increase the fines levied upon people who are detained for underage drinkingm, public urination etc, but to double them.

There is a movement to raise these fines from $300 to $600. Now, I will take the high road first. Laws are laws, and there is no doubt that students do dominate the downtown area on weekends, filling it with intoxicated people who are not the permanent face of State College to the townspeople.

Now I ask, what would State College be without Penn State? The reason that there are so many businesses here, the reason that the town is so prosperous is the the students!  Without us here spending our money on tuition, food, and alcohol, the town of State College would not be what it is today.

That being said, is it necessary to hamstring a person for making a mistake in public? Is it possible that the Council is so far removed from that time in their life that they forget what it is like to be in college and have little to no money?

Do they really understand how critical $600 can be in someone’s life who is living not only on a fixed income, but someone who is quite possibly in debt already with loans? A point was argued that, with the increase in fines, there will be a decrease in crimes.

Let’s be honest here, Council. With an increase in fines, there will only be an increase in revenue for you! There is no question that with an increase in fines the Borough will increase its revenue, thereby appearing to be raising new funds when they are really punishing more and more students.

What I want to know is wether the Borough Council is actually concerned about the well being of its residents and students, or are they more concerned with lining their pockets?

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Sept. 11th And The Penn State Bureaucracy

It is not often that you hear about someone talking out against paying respect to people that went before us.  I was in class today and I got an e-mail from the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), a group of students that decided this year to pay respect to all of those who died on September 11, 2001.

What I have come to understand is that these students set up some 3,000 American flags on the Library lawn, each one representing a person who died on that horrible day.

“This morning, the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF)  set up 2,997 flags in memory of the people who died on 9/11 seven years ago in the library lawn.  There was no ulterior motive for YAF to do this to incite any political or hate against anyone group, just a simple memorial dedicated to help people remember what happened on this day seven years ago.  This afternoon, our chairman, got a phone call from someone in the HUB, who is going to take the issue up with the Administration about having the flags put there in a nonreservable area, and they will be taking down the flags sometime today, supposedly, along with charging us for the cleanup.  We were planning to take the flags down tonight, and according to Curtis Corson, YAF treasurer, YAF contacted the HUB multiple times in order to get a space, yet none were available. “

This is just a piece of the email I received, and I think that it speaks volumes to the state of our University. This event should not be hindered; it should be applauded.  These students did something that makes our University better.  I simply cannot comprehend why there was such an issue with this on the part of administrators.

These students did all of us here a favor.  I am pledging all the support of Safeguard Old State and I hope that more people will find out about this issue and pledge their support, because this issue is not one that should be anything but applauded.

I think the administration should learn a lesson in respect, and realize that we understand the procedures they have in place are created for the best intentions, but should be more flexible, and open for interpretation.

UPDATE (TAS) — The LION 90.7fm‘s public affairs program Radio Free Penn State devoted today’s show to the discussion of this controversy. Hosted by Andy Nagypal (Class of 2003), panelists include Thomas A. Shakely, President & General Manager of The LION 90.7fm, Alex Weller, President of the College Libertarians, Chris Morell, Executive Director of Safeguard Old State and Gavin Keirans, Penn State Student Body President.

[audio:http://www.thelion.fm/archives/audio/programs/rfps/RFPS2008.09.11-Thur-YAF-911.mp3]
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Duck & Cover: Beer Sales Debut At Wegmans

In a move that administrators at Penn State would undoubtedly chide as contributing to State College’s “drinking problem,” Wegmans has begun selling beer in its grocery store just off of North Atherton Street at 345 Colonnade Way.

This is a rather unprecedented move for Pennsylvania, as alcohol is strictly regulated by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB). There was (and probably will be) much controversy over Wegmans decision to begin selling beer at its grocery store after it applied for a liquor license transfer more than 12 months ago.

Beer Sales Debut At Wegmans (CDT) — Wegmans is now selling beer at its store at 345 Colonnade Way, store manager Steve Gallucci said Thursday.

Gallucci said sales started Wednesday and have been well-received by customers.

“Most of the folks who come through are excited we have it from a convenience standpoint,” he said.

Convenience, along with an enhanced dining experience, has always been the goal of selling beer in-house — customers responded favorably to sales, citing convenience, in a poll completed by Wegmans about six months ago, Gallucci said.

“That spoke loudly to us,” he said. The store’s liquor license transfer was approved in late March after more than 16 months. It had faced opposition from local beer distributors and the Malt Beverage Distributors Association, an outside attorney for Wegmans said previously. The transfer is being appealed by the association.

Since the transfer, Gallucci said the store has undergone modifications, from the addition of two beer coolers to creating a separated licensed area, which encompasses much of the restaurant and cafe area.

“We have a wide selection of all different types of beer,” he said, adding choices include domestic, imported and microbrews. “It’s a pretty good selection.

A separate seating area away from the alcohol sales is still available, he said.

Customers are able to purchase up to two six-packs or buy single serve selections for in-house consumption in the restaurant.

“You can actually take a beer and have it with your meal,” he said.

From my perspective as one who is underage this is good news for our community in the State College area. I’ve long held that most of the “drinking problem” at Penn State is statistical hysteria caused by a misreading of the facts when it comes to incidents involving alcohol.

It will be very refreshing for me to see someone enjoying a beer with their meal the next time I’m in Wegmans. The less we treat alcohol as inherently taboo at Penn State, the more we’ll be opening ourselves up to genuine, helpful dialog on the subject.

If we’re serious about wanting to educate students on responsible, healthy alcohol consumption, we need to first trust one another enough to expose those students to the danger that comes with alcohol. Just as we cannot teach others how to drive without first exposing them to the danger of sitting behind the wheel, so to can we not expect to teach ourselves how to drink without exposing ourselves to alcohol.

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College Student, 19, Elected Mayor of Oklahoma City

I’ve written before on Safeguard Old State about students who, “doing the unexpected,” can become leaders in their communities even as undergraduates. Gavin Keirans even scored a front page story in The Daily Collegian earlier this year for his thoughts on the subject. Today, a friend of Safeguard Old State e-mailed me another story of a college student becoming mayor, but this time, the kid has become the mayor of an Oklahoma City of 38,000.

College Student, 19, Elected Mayor of Oklahoma City of 38,000 (AP) May 14, 2008 — A 19-year-old first-year student at the University of Oklahoma was elected mayor Tuesday of Muskogee, a city of 38,000 in the northeastern part of the state.

With all precincts reporting, John Tyler Hammons won with 70 percent of the vote over former Mayor Hershel Ray McBride, said Muskogee County Election Board Secretary Bill Bull.

“The public placing their trust in me is the greatest, humbling and most awesome experience I’ve ever had in my life,” said Hammons, who is from Muskogee but attends the university in Norman.

The two candidates squared off in a runoff election for the nonpartisan post after neither secured 50 percent of the vote in a six-person election April 1.

The mayor leads the nine-member city council and serves as a voting member. Hammons said a key to his platform that resonated with voters was openness of government and keeping citizens better informed of city operations.

“I think that’s been a detriment to the trust of the citizens of Muskogee,” he said. “Once we have that trust, we can solve any other problem.”

This story makes it clear that Muskogee and State College are not identical, for certain, but it continues to reinforce the point that college students are capable to lead. After all, if the average age of admission to Princeton at the time of the American Revolution was 13, then certainly 19 year olds can do their part to lead in thier communities, if they can earn the public’s trust.

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I-80 Toll: ‘Stupid Is As Stupid Does’

Don’t take my word for it:

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Rendell’s plan to lease turnpike unwise, study says

A study done for state House Democrats has concluded that it is unwise to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a private operator, as Gov. Rendell hopes to do.

Instead, the study supported the legislature’s move to keep the Turnpike Commission, raise tolls on the turnpike, and introduce tolls on I-80.

The study, by three experts from Pennsylvania State and Harvard Universities, is to be formally released today in Harrisburg.

How stupid is that? Obviously they didn’t talk to the Penn State professor from the previous post…

The jerks even stole my title:

The House Democratic study, “For Whom the Road Tolls: Corporate Asset or Public Good,” was written by Gary J. Gray, a visiting finance professor at Penn State; Patrick J. Cusatis, an assistant finance professor at Penn State-Harrisburg, and John H. Foote, a senior fellow in Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

…although the truth is that others thought of it before me, damnit. I thought I was clever and first.

More stupidity:

LancasterOnline.com: Turnpike CEO fights for I-80 toll plan

The Times-Tribune: Leased turnpike tolls may increase

The Intelligencer: Officials don’t expect drastic turnpike toll hike for drivers

Proof they counted chickens before they hatched:

Public Radio Capitol News: Funding for PA roads and bridges threatened

And some wisdom in the madness:

Pocono Record: Letter to the Editor: Oppose plan to toll Interstate 80