Collegian Wags the Dog (or God?)

Last Thursday, an article in the Collegian described the tension between the Penn State Atheist/Agnostic Association (PSAAA) and other religious groups over allocation of space in the Pasquerilla Spiritial Center to the former group.

Many religious student groups, such as the Christian Student Fellowship and the Newman Catholic Association, though supportive of PSAAA as an existing organization, are a bit uneasy about the PSAAA’s presence in Pasquerilla. Some think PSAAA’s office would be better suited in a non-faith-based building, such as the Paul Robeson Cultural Center’s Heritage Hall.

O rly? Sounds pretty dicey. But wait… what’s that? Now yall are saying there is no controversy? Check out this excerpt from a story published this morning:

A story printed in The Daily Collegian stated that many student groups have voiced complaints regarding the PSAAA’s presence in the spiritual center, but PSAAA President Daniel Farbowitz said only two individuals have complained and several have responded positively to the group’s presence.

Robert Smith, director of the Center for Ethics and Religious Affairs at Penn State, confirmed Farbowitz’ remarks and said more than a dozen people have given positive feedback regarding the group.

“Individuals have commented to us that they really like that we have the atheists and agnostics here because it would make for a better exchange of ideas, which it does,” he said. “They can’t believe that we have such a group here at the spiritual center and they think it’s pretty cool.”

Smith said he has received no formal complaints about the PSAAA’s presence in the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center.

What’s the deal? Did the Collegian just get faulty information or was it trying to make a story out of a nonstory? It seems the latter is what actually happened.

Here’s what PSAAA President Daniel Farbowitz had to say:

What the reporter did was take the views of two groups and parlay them into a story. It is a very manufactured controversy.

The Collegian itself reported that the reporter, <pig latin>atalie-Nay lumb-Pay</pig latin>*, has been suspended indefinitely and removed from her position as a religion and morality reporter. (Can’t believe that’s even a beat…)

* We don’t feel that it’s our place to negatively affect another student’s Google results in a pretty significant way, so we’ve obscured the name of the Collegian reporter.

Update 4/12/2009

We spoke to the Collegian reporter who wrote the original story. She argues that her folly was not fabricating the story– she says there are many students who consider PSAAA’s presence in Pasquerilla to be inappropriate– but that she did make a mistake by interviewing acquaintances.

And, in support of her claim, the Collegian did run a few letters to the editor that argued against PSAAA’s presence in Pasquerilla.

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