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Life After This American Life

When most of us at Onward State heard that This American Life was going to do a piece on Penn State, we were really excited. It was early in the year, and everyone was still reeling from the fact that we were named the #1 Party School and damn proud of it. We had high hopes to really show that we are a big university with a tight-knit family of students and community.

The This American Life (TAL) piece aired on Dec 18th. I unfortunately didn’t have the time to listen to it but I immediately heard about negativity in the piece and how it was a hack job on Penn State. I read the comments, I talked to friends, and I even re-read the entrire WPSU liveblog. I got myself all worked up before I even listened to the podcast to the point where I said I would end up writing a letter.

I finally listened to the podcast, and I have to ask, really, what were we expecting the producers to see?

Read more after the jump…

We had outsiders (Sorry Sarah Koenig, you’re still on the outside looking in) give us their perspective. They didn’t come here because it’s a big, fun school that accomplishes a lot of things while having a good time. They came here to look at how alcohol has a role in our community. They came here and said, “Hey, uh, this really isn’t normal.” Some of us took offense and were even embarrassed, but we really should take this as a lesson.

The university really has started to change since the TAL crew was in our backyard. The IFC’s new social policy will be a huge change in culture for the Greek community, a catalyst for underage drinking. The community is trying to gain some control on the behavior of students (however, the proposed ordinance is ridiculous). The administration is grounded and trying new ways all the time to gain some control.

The problem is that we as students have been given a lot of latitude by the administration and the community and it’s time that we start taking some responsibility ourselves.

The TAL piece is really confusing on what they’re trying to say about drinking at PSU. Is underage drinking a problem or is drinking as a whole a problem?

I can go on and on about how the legal drinking age for beer should be at 16 and the driving age should be 18 to induce a culture where drinking is no longer a sport for people but a passe event for young people, but I won’t.

Drinking here is out of control because students don’t know how to handle themselves. I was in the military, so I know how to drink… a lot. And I know others in the military that know how to drink… a lot more. But, when I came to Penn State I had to step back and say “Whoa!”

Students, underage or not, don’t know how to drink in moderation. That’s the problem. People here don’t drink to drink. They drink to get drunk, which is really immature. It isn’t normal. Drinking is and always will be a part of our culture. But getting wasted, schwasted, shit-faced-ed, only causes problems. The “oh man i threw up all night and this morning” shouldn’t be an indicator of how fucked up you were, but how much you fucked up.

But what about the things they just don’t understand? Yes, Ira missed out on a lot of stuff. How about the accomplishments of our university? Our graduation rate, our athletics, THON? Ira will certainly be getting a letter from me inviting him to cover one of the greatest collegiate accomplishments ever, but not as a protest to his coverage. I will be sending him a thank you note with the request.

Ira’s crew didn’t let us down, we let ourselves down.

Now it’s time to see how we live our lives after This American Life.

About the Author

Stefan Choquette

Stefan is currently a Junior Integrative Arts major with a background in Computer Science. Stefan is a veteran of the US Air Force and is currently enrolled in ROTC to return as an officer after graduation. Stefan is a founding brother of Phi Kappa Sigma and a licensed private pilot.
Stefan formally served as our Editor of Photography, and now helps with staff photography.


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