Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Nittany Weasel Dons Maroon and Orange

After the Virgina Tech shootings last spring. Two Penn State students, George Thompson and William Solomon, used Facebook to organize a demonstration of support for the Virginia Tech community at the Penn State intra-squad Blue and White football game.
A Penn State University junior is urging football fans to wear the maroon and orange colors of Virginia Tech to the Blue-White scrimmage Saturday at Beaver Stadium.

"I hope it gives them support to keep going on," George Thompson said Tuesday. "Hopefully, even if it makes them smile for a little bit — it'll be worth it."

Thompson's idea drew more than 1,700 supporters within hours Tuesday on the Facebook social-networking Web site.

Another Penn State student, senior William Solomon, was using Facebook to try to assemble 800 people to create a human "VT" symbol in the scrimmage crowd on Saturday.
That was a wonderful and spontaneous gesture. Or at least at the time, everyone thought it was.

Or was it an exploitive pr campaign directed by Old Main designed to give people warm and fuzzy feelings about Penn State? Old Main's response to the Virgina Tech Halloween costume brouhaha gives one reason to believe that the latter is the case.
Old Main notices bad mojo. When Penn State's public image took a beating Friday down in Blacksburg, Va., university spokeswoman Lisa Powers floated an idea to restore its luster.

“Would it be possible to get a group of students (maybe student government leaders) to ‘spontaneously’ put together a Facebook site for Penn Staters to go to and show their support for Virginia Tech(?)” Powers, the director of public information, wrote in an e-mail message to several administrators.


Powers, in her note to colleagues and superiors, clarified that she did not envision “a site to bash the two students who have been identified, but more of an outpouring of compassion to show that not all Penn Staters are as callous and insensitive as those who dressed up.”

She also noted specific concern with news coverage connected to the university.

“We are getting hammered by the Virginia television station,” she wrote, “and it’s only a matter of time before it takes on a bigger life. The postings to the television station’s Web site related to this are numerous and all talk about Penn State’s responsibility (unfortunately).”

The e-mail message, sent shortly before noon Friday and obtained this week by the Centre Daily Times, was transmitted to six upper-level Penn State staff members. They include the acting vice president for student affairs, Gail Hurley; the adviser to the University Park Undergraduate Association, Bob Orndorff; and Tom Poole, who manages the office of university President Graham Spanier.

And sure enough a "student leader" stepped up to the plate.

Jay Chamberlin, a senior who led the UPUA last year, formed an online group through to address the negative attention stirred by the Virginia Tech costumes here.

He confirmed Wednesday that the suggestion that inspired the group came from a university staff member. The group, called “Penn State STILL supports Virginia Tech,” had drawn more than 2,100 members at the university by Wednesday evening.

This calls into question the spontaneity of the actions of Solomon and Thompson this past spring.

But even if their actions were spontaneous they soon lost control of their creation.
Shortly after he and his friends began organizing the VT Zone, Bill Solomon (senior-actuarial science) learned that Penn State would pay for 800 T-shirts, some maroon and some orange. The shirts have been ordered and will be handed out on a first-come-first-serve basis to any students who wish to be part of the VT symbol.


Guido D'Elia, director of communications for Penn State football, said in addition to the VT Zone, there would be other recognition given to the tragedy in Virginia at the game.

"We're looking to do something at the beginning of the game to recognize what's happened and have a moment of silence," he said.

D'Elia also said the band is working on a special song to play after the moment of silence.

"It's clear that it's something that has touched everyone, and we're really letting the students take the lead on this," D'Elia said.
When a marketer tells you that he's letting the people lead, that a pretty good sign that he's got everything under control.

Let me be clear. I think the response of the Penn State student body to the Virgina Tech shootings was genuine. I also now suspect that Old Main exploited those feelings to boost the University's intangibles amongst the public.

Long live the Nittany Weasel!

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bill Solomon is my cousin (sadly)! You are right he is apart of the "penn state weasel network"(by "penn state weasel network" i am talking about most of my relatives who hold bachelors degrees from that institution). In fact he is the biggest weasel of them all. He is a spoiled person. He only did this to make himself look good.