A Special Message on Safeguard Old State From The Founder

Dear Friend,

Founded more than two years ago, Safeguard Old State was established with the goal in mind of protecting and advancing the student rights and traditions that were central to the campus experience of generations of Penn Staters, from students to alumni, faculty to staff, townsperson to friend of the University.

Over these past 26 months, we’ve had an exhilarating and memorable journey together as we’ve sought to rediscover some of the fundamental founding principles of Penn State and articulate a clear vision for steps that we believed needed to be taken in order to preserve those principles to ensure the University remained committed to its mission in the 21st century.

We’ve accomplished some truly remarkable goals. Safeguard Old State was the only campus group to speak out against destructive policy decisions being made by since-dismissed administrators in 2007.

And we proved that we were about more than just criticism by offering a comprehensive plan for reform in Sept. 2007 with “The Roadmap for Change in Student Affairs,” which advocated 16 key policy changes for student affairs which we believed would most positively enhance student life.

As a result of months of open dialog with administration, Safeguard Old State achieved many of these policy reforms, proving that honest and frank criticism of a failed status quo can still result in a positive dialog and real working relationships with the administrators in charge of overseeing that status quo.

Led by Gavin Keirans during 2007-2008, who just recently won an unprecedented second term as student body president and head of the University Park Undergraduate Association, Safeguard Old State became the major force and resource for campus policy discussion and debate.

We’ve appeared in more than 50 newspaper articles and other media appearances since our founding on every issue from electing a student mayor off campus to administrative budget transparency on campus, from student traditions to alcohol abuse and enforcement, from student government reform to tripartite shared governance to trustee stewardship to respecting the land-grant mission of the University.

We caused controversy, too. We spoke out against the closed door nature of the selection process for the “student trustee” appointed by the Governor. We broke the story about Penn State’s Development office secretly siphoning off donation interest revenue to cover its own costs without telling donors. We never sought to exaggerate, but only to hold up a mirror to administration and shine a light onto the darker edges of our campus.

Despite these remarkable achievements, it has become less clear that Safeguard Old State’s founding role as independent advocate for campus reform is as relevant in 2009 as it was in 2007.

Historically speaking, Safeguard Old State represents some of the most successful and most targeted strategic advocacy and activism that has taken place by students at alumni at Penn State, but at the same time, our successes have resulted in a newly strengthened student government, and a student affairs system with wholly new personnel who are fundamentally more open to the type of constructive dialog that we felt was being stamped out in 2006 and 2007.

For these reasons, and after lengthy and serious conversations with the other principle leaders and advisers to Safeguard Old State, I’ve concluded that in order to continue our mission of “rekindling the spirit of the classical university within the modern research institution” we would be most wise to focus our efforts more quietly and more judiciously outside of Safeguard Old State.

So, after publishing nearly 700 articles, exposes and blog posts, Safeguard Old State will indefinitely cease its public advocacy operations and retire its status as a student club at the Pennsylvania State University.

Safeguard Old State was born out of a cross-generational movement among students, alumni and others within the Penn State family, all who seek a more transparency, more accountable and more classically-minded University climate.

So, while Safeguard Old State is closing its doors, the movement and the personalities that have guided it, advised it and funded it, will, I’m confident, remain a part of this movement, and remain committed to the values that have guided us from the beginning, namely a rigorous academic environment, intellectual pluralism, a commitment to our land-grant founding and a sense of what it really means to be a Penn Stater.

Those who love Penn State, our Dear Old State, will forever seek to safeguard its timeless virtues and character, and for that reason if no other, the mission of Safeguard Old State continues.


Thomas A. Shakely, Founder
President & General Manager, The LION 90.7fm (WKPS) The Soundtrack to Penn State, 2008-2009
Off Campus Representative, The University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) 2006-2007