For me, the past two Wednesdays have been unique, to say the least.
Yesterday, I spent my day wandering the grandiose corridors of the Harrisburg Capitol building as part of Capital Day. Last Wednesday, I spent my day urging people to vote in the UPUA elections while giving my Ponter Kristobak spiel for change. My recent run-ins with student politics have been exciting, challenging, refreshing, and fulfilling. But they have also lead me to question: who really gives a shit?
Don’t get me wrong, the whole “I care about the students” is still a big talking point for me. But is it really worth it?
Most students aren’t worried about anything besides self-aggrandizing personal fitness, drinking to excess, and joining organizations for the sole purpose of putting it on a resume. THON, greasy foods, sweat pants, and doing it like they do on the Discovery Channel can be thrown into the mix of Penn State student experience, but what can be rightfully omitted is civic engagement and caring about what is going on in their world.
Apathy isn’t just a problem at Penn State, it’s a poison. UPUA gets blamed for students not caring about their student government when over 35,000 students couldn’t even take 30 seconds out of their day to go on their laptops, smart phones, or tablets to cast a vote last Wednesday. The administration gets berated for lack of transparency when last Monday’s fireside chats with Damon Sims and Rodney Erickson attracted a disappointing crowd of the same 10 people who attended/asked the same questions at the previous open forum. Penn State gets slammed for failing to foster diversity when events like Pride Week and World Cultural Fest lack crowds, but not funding.
Penn State students are too much about ‘look what I did’ instead of ‘look what we have accomplished together.’ Great ideas are hoarded up for personal glorification instead of bettering the community. Think of it this way: a motivated student could easily make a bit on the Android market selling a $0.99 game where you bowl with dead beavers, but trying to get the student government to stop spending 1/3 of our student activity fee on Daily Collegian advertisements is a thankless and profitless job.
The university exemplifies this masturbatory mentality with wasteful spending on lavish buildings projects like the Millennium Space Complex. Though it cost millions of dollars, takes up precious campus space, and lacks a single classroom, you can’t help but marvel in the glory of Rome that Penn State has constructed. It’s the same ‘look what I did’ mentality that has leaked into the minds of the student body. There’s a lot of ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ but it all disguises the fact that Department of Defense research grants are more important to a corporately-run university than students.
I’ve come to realize that there are two types of people in this world: those that are happy with the status quo, and those that push it forward. Those that keep it dreaming. Penn State is full of students happily content to spend their org’s UPAC funding on ice cream socials, half-ass their way through online assignments, and spend their parent’s pay checks on expensive apartment rentals and cheap beer. What this university lacks, though, is the dreamers.
Evan Ponter (@evanponter) was a candidate for president in the 2012 UPUA Elections.