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Beaver Stadium White Out Crowd Control Proves Unacceptable, Dangerous

There’s truly nothing like the Penn State White Out game. The feeling produced when students, families, and alumni pack into Beaver Stadium to watch the Nittany Lions under the lights is nothing short of magical.

For many Penn Staters, the White Out is the highlight of their college experience. That is, if you’re lucky enough to make it into the stadium safely.

Getting into the student section on Saturday was absolute chaos. In a frenzy to get into the stands, students began to congregate at the student section entrance portals. In my case, I was heading into section SC/SB. At a certain point, security stopped letting people in, but there were already so many people in the small amount of space that it became impossible for anyone to turn around. The only way out was through, but security guards were forcing students to stay in place.

The crowd was being pushed from the back, so the students at the front were being forced into the entrance. Although the students had no control over the surges, security guards began using force in an attempt to manage the crowd.

As more students piled on behind the already massive group, every inch of space began to fill up with people. I couldn’t have lifted my arms if I wanted to, and I began to feel so crushed that I had trouble breathing.

At this point, I started to panic. Luckily, I was able to squeeze out of the crowd and get to the side where there was some space, but I was still trapped by the wall of students. For the next 20 minutes, I watched the sea of people swell until there was no option but to push past security and flood into the stands.

Many students have similar stories about being trapped, suffering panic attacks, and even falling to the ground at various entrance portals.

“It was terrifying,” junior Mitchell Feyl said. “People were so pressed together that it was difficult to even breathe. After about five minutes in the crowd, I realized how dangerous the situation was. I imagined myself being crushed against a wall, but I had absolutely no way of getting out or moving forward. I’m not usually a claustrophobic person, but being unable to move my arms or even breathe fully nearly sent me into a panic. This was not just a normal crowd and people easily could’ve died.”

Students weren’t the only fans that got stuck in the madness. One student recalled seeing a small child in the mix.

“Me and my friends were sitting right above the tunnel,” senior Aiden Romano said. “We were near the edge of the student section, so we could see some people in the tunnel were non-students trying to get to their seats. When the surge happened, there was a dad getting crushed carrying a kid who looked less than two years old. The dad passed his kid up to my friend in the student section. He pushed people out of his way, then scaled the wall about eight feet to get into the student section, grab his kid, and run off.”

Other students were physically assaulted by security guards.

“Some students were very rude and kept pushing, but the rudest were the security guards,” sophomore Onward State staffer Hailey Stutzman, who couldn’t get back into the student section after leaving to use the bathroom, said. “The male security guard grabbed my arms and pushed me back, making people behind me fall. I started crying because I was all alone and being touched and screamed at.”

It’s hard to cheer on Penn State football when it seems that the only factors in a successful White Out game are a win and a record attendance number. Who cares that 109,817 people packed into the stadium if a fraction of them were pushed to the ground by security before making it to their seats?

After hosting 13 full-stadium White Out games, you’d think security would be prepared to manage the large crowd in a safe and orderly manner. This isn’t a new problem, however, as Beaver Stadium entrance practices have caused issues in the past.

In 2016, former Onward State staffer Caitlin Gailey penned a letter to then-athletic director Sandy Barbour, urging her to take action after a similar event took place at Gate A during a game against Iowa.

“The system is outdated and outright unsafe,” Gailey wrote. “I’m worried that if something doesn’t change, it’s only a matter of time before students are seriously injured.”

After a considerable reaction from students and alumni, Penn State announced plans to alleviate entry issues ahead of the season opener the following year. The new procedures seemed to work for a while, but clearly, procedures need to be reworked once again.

After the Astroworld tragedy in November 2021, stadiums and venues should consider the event of crowd surges and human crushes more heavily — we’ve seen just how devastating they can be. I’ve rarely felt unsafe during my four years at Penn State, but Saturday’s incident was genuinely a life-threatening scenario.

With the Ohio State game next weekend, I urge Penn State to make a change in the current security system. Students shouldn’t be scared to cheer the Nittany Lions on in Beaver Stadium, and Penn State football games are only enjoyable if you’re alive and healthy to see them.

A Penn State Athletics spokesperson has yet to respond to a request for comment.

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About the Author

Grace Cunningham

Grace was Onward State’s social media manager once upon a time. She was also the host of Onward State's podcast. You should google "Podward State Wienermobile" for a good laugh. Nowadays, Grace is a copywriter or something. You can reach her at gecunningh[email protected], although she doesn't know why you would want to.

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