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Why You Should Care About Finding Penn State’s New President

Ever since the Jerry Sandusky Scandal broke in November of 2011, Penn State students have continued to vocalize strong emotions about the situation.

During the months following, it seemed as though you couldn’t get on Twitter or Facebook without seeing someone express their dismay for Sandusky, their praise for Joe Paterno, and any other opinion someone could possibly have. Everyone has something to say and everyone wanted something to change. We’ve come a long way since that point, but Penn Staters are just as passionate about getting our university’s name back to where is was before all of these events transpired.

Last November, Penn State began the task of finding a President to replace Rodney Erickson who is set to step down in June 2014. While that may sound like a long time, the search to find someone to take over a $4 billion enterprise and be the face of a university that was crippled by scandal a year and a half ago is very comprehensive.

The chain of events that led Penn State to this point have impacted us as a student body immensely. The university we love and call home has been dragged through the mud and much of it started from top leadership positions. It is simple to see why so many students would be interested in making sure that the right person is charged with the task of bringing our university back to where we were before the scandal happened. Or so one would think.

On March 22, an open forum was held for students and faculty to have the opportunity to give their input on qualities and characteristics they believe should be present in Penn State’s future President. With only a handful of faculty attending and an even lower amount of students, it leaves us to wonder, why don’t more students care? Why don’t students seem to care about who will take the reins of our university and bring Penn State back to glory?

Some trials are behind us, while others are still in progress. Both the Freeh Report and the Paterno Report express two very different views of the situation as a whole. By all means we are moving forward, but we are not off the hook yet. Perhaps I am just overly optimistic, perhaps I simply believe in a future of grandeur, but I really believe our next university president will be the face of better days at Penn State. He or she will be the face of a place overcoming adversity and what we have done to get there.

Even though we have moved forward, all of those tweets and Facebook posts are still there. Penn State still has an opinion. And our student body has never had any fear expressing our opinions for change before. We all can remember the riot that occurred after the firing of Joe Paterno. We celebrated the decision to bring in coach Bill O’Brien as the new head of the football team. Almost every student expressed their dismay after the removal of JoePa’s statue outside of Beaver Stadium. Those things mattered, and almost every Penn Stater you could talk to about it was happy and eager to express their opinions.

So what happened last Thursday? Why didn’t students express their opinions when it really mattered? To be honest, I don’t really have a concrete answer for that. But, as I am sure you could guess, I do have an opinion. To be quite honest, sending out an opinionated tweet or Facebook post doesn’t do crap. Arguing with someone in class doesn’t do crap. If those are the only sort of things you are doing, then it looks as though you probably really don’t care.

By no means am I trying to stand on a soapbox and preach to you. I am guilty too. But like everyone else, I have a lot of opinions on the subject and instead of tweeting my self-righteous thoughts, I want to starting putting action behind them. I challenge other Penn Staters to do the same.

This is our university, this is our home. As a sophomore, essentially my entire Penn State career has been influenced by all of these events. It hasn’t ruined my experience. There is still definitely no place I would rather be. But I can only hope to see this university rise to be greater and stronger when moving past this. I want students after myself to come to Penn State and have an even better experience than I am already having.

As a student body, we are the ones who are going to experience most of the decisions made in the near future. That’s why we have to care. We can’t change everything, but we can make our voices heard. If and when another forum is held in the future, you better believe you will see me there, and I hope I will see many of you there with me.

With this in mind, UPUA elections are also happening today. Although the presidential ticket is uncontested, there are many other positions that are not. Want to put that opinion of yours to use? Go to today and vote. That is where change happens at Penn State, when students begin to take the initiative and have a say about their university and their education.

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About the Author

Jillian Gordon

A farm girl and a smarty pants from Eastern PA. Lover of dogs, Brand New, Kitten Mittens, sunshine and Flyers hockey.


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