Monday, September 17, 2007

My Two Cents

In the wake of the resignation of Vickey Triponey, I have some advise to offer to the students at Safeguarding Old State (S.O.S), but before I give it I want to explain my connection to that group. Some of you may know that on occasion some of my posts here, at Left of Centre , appear over at SOS. This is a result of a request I received from Tom Shakely last fall. Here is the email he sent me.

I'm contacting you on behalf of PSU Stop and as a reader of your own Blogspot blog. I'd like to ask for your permission to syndicate selected blog entries from your Blogspot blog on PSU Stop. Is that something you would consider allowing? We would, of course, have the articles published on PSU Stop under "Veblen Thorstein" or other preferred psyedonym, and include a sentence at the end of each post along the lines of, "This entry originally appeared on xxx. Selected entries are cross-posted on PSU Stop. You can contact Veblen my clicking here."

What do you think? This might be a good way for us to promote each other's blog and ensure that an even wider audience read about what's going on at Penn State. I look forward to hearing back from you soon.

Tom Shakely
PSU Stop is the predecessor to S.O.S. I agreed to this arrangement, because I thought that it might give this blog a wider audience. To this day, I never know which of my posts will appear on S.O.S. until they are posted over there. The bottom line is that I don't know any of the people associated with Safeguarding Old State and have had no contact with them since last fall.

I don't like the style of much of what appears on Safeguarding Old State. In particular, I find Tom Shakely to come off like a old man in need of a high colonic. He is shrill and has exhibited no talent for analysis. The others at S.O.S. would be well served to give Mr. Shakely in a backroom role.

That said, I do agree with S.O.S on its major point. Old Main has unilaterally rescinded power which it once granted students. Students once had control over the distribution of their activity fee. Not any longer. There was a time when students determined what groups would be given official club status. That day is long gone. Students once nominated their own trustee. Not today. There once was a student government at Penn State. Now their is an advocacy group. I look at all of this as miner would a canary. The canary is dead.

I don't agree with S.O.S that the primary problem was Vickey Triponey. She was only carrying out Spanier's policy of consolidating power in Old Main. Nonetheless, her departure does present an opportunity for students in general and the folks at S.O.S. to try to regain some of the power once lost. This will be a long shot, but Triponey's replacement, Gail Hurley, interim vice president for Student Affairs, has already reached out to S.O.S.

"[Hurley] actually called me this afternoon ... to let me know she wanted to meet with Safeguard Old State and myself as soon as possible," said Gavin Keirans, SOS executive director. "It looks like a promising step forward and a good relationship with the vice president of Student Affairs."

How should S.O.S. proceed? Hurley goal will be to co-opt the group. To keep this from happening, before any meeting with Hurley, they should come up with concrete set of items which they want to see implemented. The list could be the status quo ante with regard to student power or something all together different, but it must be concrete. Go study how other schools do things and synthesis the information into your own list. This will be hard work. In the mean time, here is short list to get the S.O.S group thinking.

  • Give the power to distribute student activity fees to elected representatives of the students.

  • Give the power to recognize student groups to elected representatives of the students.

  • Change the charter of the University to allow for the student trustee to elected by the students.

  • Give students a greater role in Judicial Affairs. Students should stand in judgment of students.

And by all means, cut the vague crap about pursuit of excellence and stop fetishizing tradition. If you guys go into a meeting and demand a return to tradition and Hurley says,"why certainly ,of course," will you nod your head yes and walk out of the meeting patting yourself on the back about how much you've accomplished? You must be specific in what you want and stand your ground.

One final point. If you're too good at negotiating and getting students behind you, beware the consequences. Take a look here to see how Spanier has treated a successful gadfly.

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1 comment:

Sam Spade said...

How great to resort to character assassination from behind a veil of secrecy.

You seem to share some common ground with Shakely in terms of your broad goals and general attitudes toward the administration. The fact that you even realize that is commendable.

However, your comments about Shakely, one of the few Penn State students cognizant of the real problems facing the university - and sober enough to want to affect change - struck me as a bit off-color.

If Shakely is "shrill" with "no talent for analysis," I'd probably characterize you as "inane with no talent for putting your agency where your mouth is." It takes a big man to say big words, but an even bigger man to carry out.

The fact that I'm using a pseudonym means I'm no better than you in that respect. But this isn't about me, it's about Shakely. The fact that the kid's putting his heart and soul into the betterment of the university and community he loves means he's earned his opinion.

You're entitled to your own ideas, but don't think you've gained any supporters with this immature post. I was going to stoop to your level and criticize your disregard for (or, more likely, unawareness of) some of the finer points of the English language, but... oops, I guess I DID stoop to your level after all!

In regards to your accusation of Tom's habit of "fetishizing" tradition, well, he's probably guilty as charged. I'd argue that it's better to put tradition on a pedestal than to ignore its implications. Hindsight is important if our community is going to attempt to make significant changes, as Shakely is attempting.
I don't get the sense that Shakely is walking into a post-Triponey Penn State future without a battle plan. It probably felt like a light bulb went off in your head when you decided that "Hurley [sic] goal will be to co-opt the group." That, good sir, is called an "idea," and I'd bet dollars to donuts that Tom's thoughts on that matter preempted your own.

At the very least Shakely is active in pursuing change, not a half-wit likely too far past his prime to make a difference in State College. To reiterate: Shakely's earned his opinion. You, sir, have not.