Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Florence in the Shadow of Mt. Nittany

During the Summer of 2004 Old Main revoked the power of the USG Supreme Court to approve new student organizations. This aroused suspicion amongst student leaders and former leaders that Old Main was trying to rescind powers that were once delegated to the USG. Vicky Triponey, vice-president for student affairs, responded to these concerns with the following,
The university's administration lacks the resources, domain and interest to micromanage the various social, political or service endeavors of the thousands of students who participate in extracurricular and co-curricular activities at Penn State. Students can learn valuable educational lessons from taking on their own governance of these aspects of campus life. In fact, Penn State's student governance system serves as a national model for peer leadership in student-run endeavors.
That was written in September of 2004. By November of 2004, here is what Triponey had to say about the USG,
Vice President for Student Affairs Vicky Triponey said she thinks the organization's current structure fails to give students an effective voice because internal fighting "jeopardized their credibility" in the eyes of outsiders.
What occurred in that two month period to radically alter Triponey's assessment of the USG? It would seem that the proximate cause was the impeachment of USG president Galen Foulke. Why was he impeached?
Triponey said Foulke's recently established commission to review the USG Constitution is a step in the right direction, but according to the assembly's impeachment charges, the commission is a violation of his oath of office.
He was impeached for establishing a commission to review the USG Constitution and Triponey who, in September, had praised the USG, in November, praises Foulke's efforts to change USG. The resistance to this change then becomes the reason for why the change is needed. Never mind what Triponey wrote way back in September, the spin in November was that this was not a new problem. No, it had always been such. Triponey couldn't risk being caught in a contradiction. Hence it fell to one of her assistants to make the claim.
Internal fighting in USG has plagued the organization for years, said Philip Burlingame, assistant vice president for student affairs. He said the bickering often makes students outside USG disinterested in student government.
What's going on here? I think Taylor Rhodes, former USG Supreme Court Chief Justice, hit the nail on the head in September of 2004.

Let there be no mistake, the administration's actions and policies, especially those of President Spanier and Vice President Triponey, are far from student oriented. They support a bureaucratic junta, creating problems as justification for administrative intervention. Last year they dissolved the Student Organization Appeals Board, which had appellate jurisdiction for organizational disputes. This year the administration stripped students of the ability to be governed by students within the organizational registration process.

The bureaucratic tools they use are pitting students against students and hoping that the rest are too apathetic to ever care.

Today the USG is no longer the officially recognized voice of Penn State undergraduates. The students were no match for the Machiavellian Spanier.

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