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‘This American Life’ Covers PSU Osama Celebration

I wonder how Graham Spanier feels about Sarah Koenig… my guess is he could do without her. Koenig is a locally-based producer for Chicago Public Radio’s This American Life, the weekly hour-long radio show that kept Penn State in the national spotlight in fall of 2009 for its #1 party school ranking.

Koenig was instrumental in the production of that segment, including venturing on what must have been treacherous trips into parking decks and through Beaver Canyon.

This time, the publicity generated for Penn State vis-à-vis Koenig’s residency here was a bit better.

Penn State’s celebration in Beaver Canyon following President Barack Obama’s announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed by US forces was featured in this week’s episode, which was unusual for its focus on events that had occurred in the 7 days before it aired.

Koenig said she was seeking to understand why our generation — the millenials — reacted so much more enthusiastically than hers did. (Koenig, for one, says she was asleep Sunday night and missed the news until Monday morning.)

Lexi Belculfine, Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Collegian

For that, she turned to Lexi Belculfine, The Daily Collegian’s Editor-in-Chief. Belcufine, who has a poster of Dave Matthews above her bed I now know (gotta let bros be bros!), explained to Koenig how Osama bin Laden impacted her psyche in the interim decade since the towers fell.

She articulates the feeling well — I think many of us can agree that terrorism as personified by bin Laden acted as a specter of sorts through our adolescence, and anyone within a mile radius of Beaver Canyon last Sunday night knows that his death affected us on a level deeper than those older and younger than us. That said, I think Belculfine missed a few details about last week’s celebration that I would have noted.

The scale of the celebration at Penn State was clearly fueled by our local Twittersphere, which I believe to be a degree more vibrant than most other universities. On the eve of finals week, students were looking for reasons to not do work and celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden was not only a patriotic endeavor, but a fun one as well. I would also like to know what percentage of students in Beaver Canyon last week were there to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden compared to those who were there simply to celebrate, as my personal feeling and that of many I have talked to is that the majority of students were there as spectators more than anything.

Interesting questions to consider in retrospect. Lexi’s interview is well worth a listen, so head on over to the show’s site to listen to the full episode.

About the Author


Creator of @OnwardState. Big fan of sweaters.


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