Dean Long: How are students responding to the comments reported in the Collegian and on Onward State in which Deans and other officials are attempting to address the issues around State Patty's Day?
Sam: I think the students are responding in a defensive manner. The messages from the University range from "Don't drink" to "if you do drink, there will be serious consequences."
Dean Long: How could we enter into a discussion about the important concerns regarding responsible drinking in a productive way? Specifically, I am interested in the possibility of a deeper dialogue about undergraduate drinking without falling into a paternalistic mode that often provokes the sort of defensiveness you mention.
Sam: Students are already taking a proactive and responsible approach. The UPUA sponsored a full page ad reminding students to make responsible decisions. The Greek governing bodies took actions that limit the roles that sororities and fraternities will play over the weekend. But let's not forget that State Patty's Day was established as a way to bring the Penn State community together.
Dean Long: I think that is an important reminder. In talking to Meghan White, a 2006 CLA graduate working now at Allegheny College, I was struck by her suggestion that "the event attracts alums as well and it should be noted that it is up to alums to set a positive example to undergraduates about how to celebrate the spirit of Penn State in a responsible way." I think it is important to emphasize the role alums play in this and the fact that it is in some degree a celebration of the Penn State community.
The issue is, can the community respond in a thoughtful and mature way to the real problems that the event can generate?
Sam: The kind of discussion we are having here might serve as a way to begin such a response. Since this is an event based around the Penn State community, I think we can mitigate some of the problems by making sure we are looking out for one another, as I think many of the concerns center around the question of safety.
Dean Long and Sam: How will you look out for your fellow community members this weekend? What should the University response to State Patty's Day be? How can faculty, students, administrators, and alums work together to address the complex set of issues that stem from the State Patty's Day phenomenon?
This seems to us to be a good opportunity to open a deeper dialogue about these issues and we hope that you will join in the discussion here.
For those Twitterers, let's use the #StatePatty hash tag.