Leaders of Penn State’s three student governments addressed the Board of Trustees in its meeting today for the final time, as their terms will end in just a few weeks with student government elections on the horizon.
Council of Commonwealth Student Governments Vice President Shawn Lichvar spoke first, encouraging the Board and Pennsylvania legislators to ensure Penn State is accessible and affordable to all students in Pennsylvania.
Kevin Horne (also an Onward State editor emeritus) spoke in his second final address, as he is serving a second term as president of the Graduate and Professional Student Association.
“I spoke last year about Penn State’s 15th president Eric Walker, who often spoke about the concept of a university having two presidents, both himself and the student body president,” Horne said. “This is a time when Pennsylvania Penn State student governments had offices, built and paid for the HUB on their own, and contributed a great deal to many things that continue to enrich Penn State student life today.”
Horne encouraged the Board not to lose sight of what made them fall in love with Penn State and want to serve the university in the first place. He explained Penn State should be more about the number of degrees earned each year of the ratio of students placed in jobs immediately after graduation.
“Students are not customers as some trustees or administrators refer to them, when we log into LionPATH and are forced to schedule courses by adding them to what is called a shopping cart,” Horne said. “The Penn State experience becomes more transactional and shallow, less special, and the spirit of our founders less vibrant. College must be more than just the acquisition of job skills or certification of courses passed.”
Horne quoted Provost Nick Jones, who said yesterday in a Board of Trustees committee meeting that Penn State is about the people here. Students are attracted to Penn State not by the building renovations that increase student tuition and fees, but rather by the faculty and other students inside the buildings.
“A former Penn State trustee wrote that the Penn State spirit is indestructible, but only if in a practical sense we allow it to come alive inside of us. If we can conceive of our place as something far beyond the role of students as customers, we have begun to answer that question,” Horne said. “It is on all of us here — students, trustees, administrators, everyone — and you as the Board, ultimate governing body to open your heart and cultivate a vision for the future of Penn State as vast and ambitious as that of our founders. Only then will we have met the challenge of the question what kind of University is Penn State. Only then will we honor what’s always made Penn State great.”
University Park Undergraduate Association President Terry Ford described his Penn State to the Board, saying teaching, research, and service are the values he sees in the Penn State he’ll love forever.
“The magic that I see everywhere else at Penn State, I’m not sure I see it and I’m not sure I feel it when I think about the University’s Board of Trustees,” Ford said. “I don’t recognize the atmosphere that this board is engulfed in, the fighting, the mistrust, the confusion, the despair. It is making us weak. It is distracting us from our core mission of teaching, research and service.”
Ford challenged the Board to remember its true responsibility at Penn State to transform young people, instead of spending hours discussing old business that no longer relates to Penn State’s core mission.
“I’m convinced that everyone in this room is dedicated to advancing the University in this way. In today’s environment it is just too easy for any one of us, students included, to regress and em broil ourselves in matters that deserve considerably less attention,” Ford said. “If we’re mindful of this, I think that the greatest days are ahead of us, not behind us.”