Coming To The Aid of Dear Old State

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I would like to preface this short piece with two facts about myself:

First, I have always considered myself to lean to the left politically, so I have some natural bias just like any human being.

Second, I love Penn State as much as any of my many friends in a HAT society or any other student at Penn State. I have criticized parts of it from time to time as nobody and nothing is perfect.

This article is calling upon students to come to its defense in a time of great need, and we as students need to defend that which we love and care about so much.

Today, for the first time in the nearly three years since I decided upon Penn State, and in the year when I realized I was graduating early, have I been happy about graduating early. Today, we, as a University, were shanghaied into taking a giant step forward into making the Pennsylvania State University the biggest misnomer in higher education: a state university that is vilified and undercut by its state every spring. In a few years, we may have to modify the Alma Mater to “Dear Old ______, Dear Old ______,” since “state” will definitely not fit in those cherished verses. Here is what I see as having gone wrong, and at least a few pieces of advice for those who have graduated, are about to graduate, and are a long way off from crossing that stage at whichever campus you call your Penn State home.

For the past eight years, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was blessed with a governor who was a graduate of an Ivy League school who despised the state-related institutions and had an overzealous infatuation with the PASSHE Schools, like IUP, Lock Haven, West Chester, etc. Though a registered Democrat, I despised this man for his apparent disdain for my beloved school.

Then, in 2010, in a giant swing to the political right, our state elected in a private school graduate, rather than one of our own alumni. Less than two months after being sworn in to office, Gov. Corbett took a Paul Bunyon sized axe to higher education funding in Pennsylvania. Not just the funding for our school, or even the other three state related institutions, but all of them, including the darling PASSHE schools of the previous administration. After watching his budget address, it would appear that this man has no faith in the future of our state.

Cutting the budget in the present may temporarily solve financial woes that have built up, but preventing anyone but the most affluent students from getting an education in Pennsylvania is going to cost jobs here in the long run and cause the brain drain in this state to increase exponentially. The United States as a country is increasingly dependent upon service sectors which require education and any failure to invest in education is a failure to invest in the future of our family, friends, state, and country.

This post is not going to be a Democrat vs Republican, red vs blue, argument in the making (as it seems whoever occupies the governor’s mansion really does not care about us). The Governor’s budget is a proposed budget. The State House and State Senate still need to approve it before June 30th. This is where you all come in to play, and how we can still have an impact upon that dreadful proposed cut of 50% for PSU.

What I want to impart here is a bit of advice unto my fellow Staters:

Read. Though far from perfect, read the Daily Collegian. Read the Centre Daily Times. Read your local paper back home,wherever that may be. Keep reading Onward State. Read them religiously. Write letters to theeditor and write comments. Talk. Discuss. Be informed. Talking hashes out ideas, and helps you develop a crazy notion into something that you can turn into a positive reality. It also helps you find people who agree with you. Teamwork is a major key of success in most things, especially helping Penn State.

Participate. Though it’s too late to register for UPUA elections, you can still vote. If only 17% of University Park students do something, no one will care. If much greater student turnout occurs, our elected representatives to the administration will have a greater sway in what they do. After the elections, show up to Assembly meetings, and voice your opinions in open student forum. Make your voice be heard. Make it loud. Work with the UPUA, and it will work for you. The same applies for any Penn State campus’ Student Government Association elections, not just the UPUA.

Keep Participating. Don’t leave your political participation end there. Wherever you are registered to vote (if you aren’t registered, do it NOW), do your civic duty and vote in the primary and general election for EVERY position on the ballot. I wrote myself in on a ballotin the fall of 2009, and I am now an elected Auditor for Robeson Township, PA. One vote can actually make a difference. Clichés are clichés for a reason. Go beyond that even! Find some issue or politician you are passionate about (say, higher education funding?) and get involved in campaigns. Voting is just the first step.

Care. When Penn State students care about something, we clearly can make any other school jealous of the outcomes we produce. When I travel to a grad school interview and I say “I go to Penn State,” the first words out of someone’s mouth are “9.5 million,” in reference to our dance marathon, it is quite obvious we can do great things. Anyone who has stepped into the BJC onthe Sunday of THON from 8AM onward, or in Beaver Stadium during a whiteout, knows the power of a group of Penn Staters. If you and every other student at Penn State puts the same effort into lobbying their state representatives that they put into THON or a whiteout, perhaps we won’t see a 50% appropriations cut.

Be heard. Contact your legislators, and tell them how wicked pissed off you are about what your governor is goingto do to Penn State, and higher education in general. Credit here goes to UPUA College of the Liberal Arts Rep John Zang for providing the link, and just promoting common sense here. This is a democracy, and that goes beyond just election day. Tell the people you voted for (or voted against) how you feel. Go to Capital Day. CCSG Governmental Affairs Director MJ Worsham has been and will continue to be working incredibly hard to organize this event to provide you with an opportunity to meet with your legislators so you can actively participate in the democratic process. Instead of being a critic, take advantage of this resource. Be loud and tell them you want more support for the Pennsylvania STATE University, our sole land-grant institution that out state is bound to support. Take advantage of your resources. As one university with a very diverse student population spread across an entire state, perhaps we can shake some sense into our legislators. It may not work, but it is at least worth a shot. One cannot strike out if one does not step up to the plate.

A small, dedicated band of people can do a lot, whether it is the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team, the Continental Army, or the Rebel Alliance. The Penn State student body should striveto bring itself to rank amongst these groups, whether they are real or fictitious. If they didn’t try, the Soviets would have won that gold medal, we’d still be a colony of the United Kingdom, and Emperor Palpatine would have kept on ruling the galaxy for a long time. What is fun about any of those options? Nothing. Just like nothing is fun about seeing the Pennsylvania STATE University listed under private institutions. Imagine a large, dedicated band of people. Imagine what they can do.

Though no cut to Penn State in the #PABudget is unlikely, we can do our part to work with PennState to reduce that cut. WE ARE … ONE UNIVERSITY, students and administrators faced with the same problems. I have not exactly been the biggest fan of President Spanier. However, he and the rest of Old Main have resources, like the university lobbyists, that as one we can put to good use. Now is the time to come together as one, every Penn State administrator, student, and alumni across Pennsylvania and the United States. A house divided cannot stand, but united it has a better chance of surviving Hurricane Corbett.

Though I am not an expert by any definition of the word, I hope that you will listen to my advice, my fellow Penn Staters, for the Glory of Old State, while it still is Old State.

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