The List

“The List”

Imagine having your entire life ruined when you were eight-years old for an action that you could not conceivably understand. There are a multitude of injustices associated with the sex-offender registry, but perhaps none more poignantly addressed than in this Sarah Stillman New Yorker article from a few months ago that struck a nerve with me.

Leah DuBuc was a gregarious child. Plump and pleasant-looking, with ginger hair and freckles, she took the crown at the Little Miss Summer pageant, in lakeside Pentwater, Michigan, belting out “You Are My Sunshine”; she brought the same gusto to gardening and tap-dance recitals. Leah’s troubles began when she was eight and her parents got divorced. Her father remarried and won custody of her and her little sister; her mom, mired in personal issues, was granted supervised visits with the girls at the local Dairy Queen. DuBuc was now sharing her old home with her stepmother and her four children—three boys and a girl.

“I’d never had brothers before, and I was curious,” DuBuc told me. One afternoon, after watching movies with her new step-siblings, ten-year-old Leah mimicked having sex with them—“like we’d seen in the movies,” she says—and then, by her account, exposed herself to the younger kids. It happened several more times, she said.

Later that year, DuBuc recounts, a law-enforcement officer visited her elementary-school class and told the students to inform a trusted adult if they had been subject to abuse. DuBuc remembers complaining to him about mistreatment at home; when authorities arrived to investigate, she says, they learned of her sexual misbehavior. According to another family member, however, one of DuBuc’s step-siblings talked about her actions to a therapist, who then alerted the authorities. (As is often true in such cases, the details may be impossible to establish definitively.)

Amid extensive therapeutic interventions, DuBuc was charged with eight counts of criminal sexual conduct, in the first and second degree. The prosecutor, Marilyn Bradford, insists, “There were a lot of scary things that happened to the victims in the case—ongoing things that happened to the little siblings.” But DuBuc’s court-appointed clinical social worker, Wendy Kunce, noted that at the time “there was a history of ‘charging large.’ ”

At the age of twelve, DuBuc arrived in juvenile court for a series of hearings. Her father, a mechanic, drove her to the courthouse, but he didn’t fully grasp the implication of the charges. (DuBuc’s interviews with authorities often occurred without the presence of a parent or a guardian.) Moments before stepping in front of a judge, DuBuc met with her court-appointed attorney, alone. She remembers giggling when she had to say the words “penis” and “vagina,” and when her fingerprints were taken, she told me, “I felt like I was in a movie.”

DuBuc recalls the court-appointed attorney explaining that if she pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal sexual conduct—a graver crime than the one that she says she committed, because it involved penetration—she’d be taken from her home. Given that she wanted to escape the difficult conditions there, she agreed. DuBuc’s investigating officer, Deputy Sheriff Mike Capra, told me, “I think she was hoping to make it easier on everybody by avoiding a long, drawn-out process and saying, ‘O.K., I goofed up, I’m a kid, I’ll learn from it and move on.”

In April, 1997, the judge ordered that DuBuc be sent to a residential juvenile-sex-offender treatment facility in Manteno, Illinois, called Indian Oaks Academy, where she stayed for nearly two years. An adult could have gone to prison for life, the judge warned, and, as she recalls it, proclaimed her a “lucky girl.”

The horror of sex crimes cannot be understated, but nor can the horror of rendering what is essentially a life sentence to a child who couldn’t possibly know any better. And it is a life sentence — anyone on “the list” is constructively barred from being employed in any job beyond entry level, no matter how brilliant or adept, having a family (don’t tell me you didn’t vet your significant other online), renting property, or living near parks/schools/etc.

There’s often outrage when criminal punishments seem lenient; I would argue that a compassionate approach to the law, especially for those who are over-punished, produces a better society.

Lincoln Hall

Visiting 119 N. Barnard St.

One of State College’s least assuming houses is also one of its most important. From the Penn State Black Alumni website:

The circa 1910 structure was a rooming house for male African-American students at the Pennsylvania State College from the late 1930s to the early 1950s.  Known as Lincoln Hall, the boarding house could accommodate 6-8 students and was operated by Harry and Rosa Gifford, their children Bessie and Emanuel, and the latter’s wife, Agnes.  The family had moved north from the Mississippi to become fraternity house cooks at Theta Chi, Phi Gamma Delta and Zeta Beta Tau.

Old Lincoln Hall

Penn State’s First and Only Black Dorm

Due to an unofficial campus housing policy at the college from about 1930 until 1946, Black males could only choose to room at Lincoln Hall or at a few private homes.  The very few Black female students could reside in the dorms.  At times Lincoln Hall residents made up half the African-American student enrollment, making it the center of Black life at Penn State.

The Giffords and other Black cooks assisted students by employing them to work for rent and meals.  This network, though born out of segregation, is credited for nurturing, supporting and encouraging an early generation of African American students.

Lincoln Hall - The Giffords

Some early Lincoln Hall roomers of note include: Wallace Triplett III ‘49, the first Black varsity football player and former NFL player; Henry “Barney” Ewell ‘47, Olympic gold medalist; Roger K. Williams ‘46, vice president of academic affairs at Morgan State College; and James H. Robinson ‘49, associate dean and director at Jefferson Medical School.  Other known residents of Lincoln Hall were Ernest Lowe ‘49, Perry Smith ‘48, Mitchell Williams ‘49, Rufus O. Williams ‘48, Charles Murray ‘50, Clayton Wilson ‘49, Hope Winborne ‘50, Bert Lancaster ‘50, and Rushu Karnge.  A later resident, Barton A. Fields ‘53, became Secretary of the Commonwealth (PA).   This group included several founding members of the Penn State chapters of Alpha Phi Alpha and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternities.

I walked by Lincoln Hall, located at 119 N. Barnard Street, countless times when I lived on the west side of State College as an undergraduate, totally unaware of its significance until recently. The property looks almost exactly as it did 80 years ago, aside from the historical marker that went up in 2012.

Lincoln Hall Plaque

People often have a difficult time articulating the “Penn State spirit” beyond the special feeling one gets when watching a particularly exciting football game or when taking a contemplative walk through campus. I would argue the Penn State Spirit is the collective energy of the things and people that make our University unique, separate from all the commonalities and perks of university life across the country (there are, of course, hundreds of beautiful campuses worthy of contemplative walks and just as many exciting college football games). It is revering Mount Nittany. It is tipping your cap to Old Willow or the admiring the remaining Elms. It is celebrating the unique vision of people like Evan Pugh and Joe Paterno. And it is remembering places that never should have needed to exist at all like Lincoln Hall. There will only ever be one Wally Triplett, one Barney Ewell, and one Penn State. A careful study of this sort of distinctive culture is, in this author’s opinion, a more noble endeavor than the directionless “rah rah” mentality that permeates most large university campuses these days.

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Why I Voted for Dan Cocco

Penn State Board of Trustees alumni elections are coming to a close this week, with four candidates vying for three spots. Anyone who’s driven through State College in the last month has undoubtedly noticed the road signs and billboards and other campaign paraphernalia papering the town. It’s no secret Penn State has the most politicized trustee elections in the country thanks to the 2011 mess, so I wanted to take a moment to explain my three choices and urge you to vote before the deadline on Thursday.

For the uninitiated, here’s the short of the situation: Three incumbent trustees are running on a platform endorsed by PS4RS, an alumni activist group which formed in response to perceived (and in my opinion, actual) issues with Penn State governance following the Sandusky fallout. I consider myself much more sympathetic to the PS4RS cause then most current students and young alumni (I don’t claim to speak for either group, but I do interact with a good many people from each and think I have a pretty good pulse). PS4RS believes Joe Paterno should be honored, the Freeh report should be refuted, and Penn State’s large and disjointed board should be more accountable to its stakeholders. I fervently agree with all of those goals, as do the voting alumni. PS4RS has swept the last three elections by large margins, and, frankly, is likely to do so again this year.

The organization has turned off a large number of current and recent student leaders because of some of the attitudes of some its most vociferous members on social media. The organization has, somewhat justifiably, gotten a bad rap by the way some of its members conduct themselves on Twitter and in the comment section of news articles. The term “JoeBot” is not entirely unearned, if you only read the comments. Despite being in agreement with the PS4RS core mission, I am often a target of these attacks. I want to make it clear that I do not endorse this conduct. It is of great distress, for someone who agrees with the core mission, that this group has pinned itself in this corner with otherwise reasonable students and alumni.

Anyway, I’m not voting straight ticket. Here’s why.

PS4RS has accomplished one of its central goals in replacing every elected member of the Board of Trustees. I am glad they did. In the history books, it will say that every alumni-elected member of the November 2011 board was swiftly replaced for making a series of awful decisions — about Paterno’s undignified termination and other issues. The list of replaced trustees include one of Penn State’s greatest ambassadors in Jesse Arnelle and one of its most successful alumni in Joel Myers. I still look favorably on these two men and their body of work. Everyone makes mistakes. Nonetheless, replacing all nine is important for the historical record and how future historians will look back on the Penn State “scandal.” We should be playing the long game to correct the record at this point.

Nonetheless, I think it’s unhealthy for one organization to have a stranglehold on the election process. It’s why I used one of my votes on Dan Cocco, the 2008 THON Overall Chairperson and a voice for young alumni and students.

Cocco is maligned by PS4RS members because he ran on the Upward State ticket two years ago, which was a group created somewhat in response to PS4RS. The organization claimed to prioritize putting “students first” and wanted to move on entirely from the scandal fallout.

There’s a misconception among some of PS4RS’s opponents (and propagated by Upward State) that trustees should have “priorities” or that the Board is driven by prioritization. With all due respect, that is simply not how the Board works. Ensuring students have the lowest tuition possible is not in conflict with honoring Joe Paterno. Welcoming the student voice in university decision making processes is not in conflict with refuting the Freeh report. Striving to correct the record about the scandal does not mean one can not care just as much about the every day functioning of the university. Although the Paterno stuff makes the news, anyone who has actually followed any Trustee meetings over the last several years understands this concept. this Despite his former Upward State affiliation, I believe that Cocco knows this.

A vote for Dan is a vote for honoring Paterno, giving young alumni and students a voice, ensuring responsible budget management, and opening the doors for other non-PS4RS affiliated alumni to run. I view this as a positive thing. Dan understands a trustee can walk and chew gum at the same time — it’s not all or nothing, as some PS4RS critics have incorrectly asserted. Trustees are not politicians, and any talk about prioritizing initiatives is a complete misunderstanding of how the Board of Trustees works. I don’t support all of what PS4RS trustees have done — I don’t agree 100% with any one trustee, nor will I with Dan — but let’s just end that misconception about the nature of trusteeship.

There are members of the Board that simply serve as rubber stamps for the Board’s Executive Committee. No matter how much I like Dan personally, if I thought he was going to be one of those trustees, I would not have voted for him. Young Penn Staters have an incredible opportunity to elect someone who will speak for them, while also applying a responsible amount of pressure on important issues. He’s an exciting candidate worthy of our support.

I also voted for incumbents Bill Oldsey and Barbara Doran, and fully endorse their candidacies. Anyone who claims that PS4RS trustees only care about the Paterno issue need not look further than Bill Oldsey to realize they are wrong. Despite having a reputation for being a bit of a hell raiser, I have not found another trustee (aside from the student trustees) who are more welcoming to the student voice than Oldsey. He is a constant watchdog on the finance committee for making sure Penn State’s budget is as responsible it can be. He has a reputation as being a bit of a firebrand, but one would be hard-pressed to find a trustee who is more engaged with all of the issues.

Doran is another trustee who cares about much more than what PS4RS gets labeled with by its critics. Her input on the various committees has always been measured, valuable, and respectful. As one of the few women on the Board, she has a tough job, but she’s always handled it with grace. I should note that the other candidate, Ted Brown, has always been incredibly pleasant and welcoming to me, but his platform was, in my opinion, the weakest of the group.

A team of Cocco, Oldsey, and Doran would be a win for Penn State, and in particular, Penn State students. If you are a Penn State alumnus, and you haven’t yet voted, PLEASE REQUEST A BALLOT ON THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES WEBSITE BY WEDNESDAY TO HAVE YOUR VOTE COUNTED BY THURSDAY. 

More People Get Election News From Radio Than Newspapers

When’s the last time you’ve intentionally listened to the news on the radio? It’s probably more recently than the last time you’ve read a newspaper.

From the latest Pew Research Poll:

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In the 18-29 demographic, 53% of respondents say the most helpful type of news comes from social media or news websites/apps. Only 2% mention local papers in print (1%) or national papers in print (1%).

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It’s worth sifting through the entire poll if you’re interested in this sort of thing. And if your organization is still printing newspapers or relying on print advertising to survive, start counting down the days.

Even sillier, when I graduated from the Penn State College of Communications less than two years ago with a degree in journalism, I had to take a class on how to layout a newspaper design. Guess how many classes I had on how to effectively use social media?

Zero.

parents

On Hover Parenting

I was lucky enough to have two parents who put just enough pressure on me to keep me going in the right direction but accepted my own agency once I left for college (and, more accurately, the last couple years of high school). My mother experienced the teary eyed college goodbye freshman year not in front of my dorm room, but in my driveway at home because I insisted on driving myself to college. My parents visit me about once a year on campus, and I make it home every couple months. It’s an incredibly healthy, non-intrusive relationship.

I am not a parent but I spend a lot of time thinking about what kind of parent I want to be one day. I suspect it is the sort similar to my own — I don’t feel compelled to call home every day or share all of my grades or constant anecdotes about my daily life, and although my parents probably think I share less than I should, I consider my family unit fairly strong.

As I watch an era unfold where more and more parents continue to not just offer guidance but demand complete agency over their son or daughter during their entire college experience (“I’m paying for your tuition so therefore your life is not your own,” etc). We all know the parent who comments on every single Facebook photo of their kid in college, which seems to be a phenomenon occurring with increasing frequency. It was through that lens that I read the three-part series by Peter Gray in Psychology Today, which paints a scary picture about the effects of this new sort of “helicopter parenting” on society by creating legions of feeble minded young adults.

From Part 1:

In previous posts (for example, here and here), I have described the dramatic decline, over the past few decades, in children’s opportunities to play, explore, and pursue their own interests away from adults. Among the consequences, I have argued, are well-documented increases in anxiety and depression, and decreases in the sense of control of their own lives. We have raised a generation of young people who have not been given the opportunity to learn how to solve their own problems. They have not been given the opportunity to get into trouble and find their own way out, to experience failure and realize they can survive it, to be called bad names by others and learn how to respond without adult intervention. So now, here’s what we have: Young people,18 years and older, going to college still unable or unwilling to take responsibility for themselves, still feeling that if a problem arises they need an adult to solve it.

From Part 2:

In another study, Michelle Givertz and Chris Segrin (2012) surveyed 339 college students and their parents (mostly mothers). The students and parents completed questionnaires having to do with the parents’ style of parenting, and the students also completed questionnaires aimed at assessing self-efficacy and sense of entitlement. The entitlement questionnaire had questions concerning the degree to which the student felt that he or she deserved special favors, beyond those that others received. The results: Those students who had the most controlling and intrusive parents—as assessed by parents’ as well as students’ reports—manifested the lowest scores on the self-efficacy scale and the highest scores on the entitlement scale.

From Part 3:

“I am a high-school guidance counselor and have noticed a drastic difference in students’ ability to cope and handle adversity. I recently had a student email me at 9 p.m. because she couldn’t handle the B she just saw posted by her teacher. I had a parent meet me twice, wanting her son to drop an elective since it wasn’t meeting HER expectation of a 98% or higher in each of her son’s classes…Kids come to my office continuously because they feel anxious or are having a panic attack.”

At minimum, this research seems to back up anecdotal evidence that parents are coddling their children well into their twenties. My high school baseball coach, whom I still consider a mentor, was fired a year after I graduated due to what seemed to be a change in the attitudes of the parents (and subsequently, their kids), resulting in multiple parental complaints to the athletic department about fake issues, like the coach yelling at a player. I’ve been in classes with students who break down in tears over Bs. The administrators I interact with the most in my capacity as GPSA President report a steady increase in calls from parents about university issues (if my parents ever called Old Main about anything, I’d disown them). We are now in an era where fathers of Division 1 football players post constant updates about their sons on fan message boards. Attendance of organizations I’m involved with creeps lower and lower as lunches with visiting parents simply cannot be pushed back or moved forward a single minute.

How much helicopter parenting contributes to the mental health crisis across college campuses today is anyone’s guess, but it’s enough to make me concerned.

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The Crossing and the Impermanence of the Internet

I care a lot about archiving and ensuring the permanence of a historical record. I also care a lot about digital journalism. Increasingly, I am worried about these two things conflict. In an Atlantic piece called “The Internet’s Dark Ages” my fears were confirmed. According to the author, something like 30% of all links on the Internet stop working after one year.

The web, as it appears at any one moment, is a phantasmagoria. It’s not a place in any reliable sense of the word. It is not a repository. It is not a library. It is a constantly changing patchwork of perpetual nowness.

You can’t count on the web, okay? It’s unstable. You have to know this.

Digital information itself has all kinds of advantages. It can be read by machines, sorted and analyzed in massive quantities, and disseminated instantaneously. “Except when it goes, it really goes,” said Jason Scott, an archivist and historian for the Internet Archive. “It’s gone gone. A piece of paper can burn and you can still kind of get something from it. With a hard drive or a URL, when it’s gone, there is just zero recourse.”

With journalism continuing to be consumed online instead of in print, I fear about what the historical record of our time will look like even a decade from now. There’s no clear solution, but I hope libraries and archivists (and even tools like WayBack Machine) will focus more resources on archiving online-only journalism.

To use a micro-example, much of what we know about the history of Penn State is gleaned from the Daily Collegian archives. I don’t have much good to say about the Collegian in its present form, but it’s impossible to understate its importance in telling the history of the university. I’ve spent countless hours digging through the stash of old Collegians in the University Archives. But what happens when the Collegian no longer exists in print form (and it’s no longer a matter of if, but when)? There are still a number of dead links in the Collegian’s web presence from its most recent redesign, and you never know when something could happen and its recent links are gone forever.

The Atlantic article gave the clearest example of the failure to preserve journalism in the digital age. In 2006, the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News published a 33-part series called “The Crossing,” which explored a 1961 tragedy about a school bus that collided with a train in a small Colorado town and claimed the lives of 20 young children. Its genius was in its digital sum, which includes tons of videos, documents, and other multimedia elements that are impossible to recreate in a newspaper  It won a Pulitzer Prize, and then one day, it was gone. The newspaper went under and with it went all of its online content.

Luckily, the writer had the entire story saved, and in 2013, he was able to recreate it using a unique URL (it’s well worth your time to read).

Had the author not backed up his work and saved it for all those years, this beautiful piece of journalism would have been lost forever. It’s worth thinking about the best way to preserve this kind of journalism as newspapers continue to go out of business or transition to online-only models.

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What Does Shared Governance Mean? An Address to the Board of Trustees

The Penn State Board of Trustees met last week for its annual meeting at the Hershey Medical Center, the flagship of the burgeoning Penn State Health Network. Because of a schedule change this year, it also happened to be the last meeting of my term as graduate student body president. The three student government presidents are traditionally invited to give some brief remarks at the beginning of their final meeting. It was a responsibility I was greatly looking forward to — not to go over a laundry list of the year’s accomplishments, but to talk about what “shared governance” really means.

If you’ll indulge my shameless self-promotion, you can find the video and transcript below. I also encourage you to listen the remarks from my counterparts in UPUA and CCSG (link). Emily McDonald and Shawn Lichvar are two awesome stalwarts for the student voice who I will greatly miss next year.

Hello everyone, my name is Kevin Horne and I’m the president of the Graduate & Professional Student Association. I like to kid Emily and Shawn that we are the oldest of the three student government associations at Penn State, with our constitution chartered back in 1951.

But I want to use my time to talk a little bit about 1951, and how the concept of shared governance and the inclusion of the student body and its representatives in the university decision making mechanism has evolved over the years.

I want to start by saying that I think shared governance at Penn State is exceptionally strong right now – at least stronger than it has been in my five years of student government involvement at the undergraduate and graduate level. One need not look further than the latitude we’ve been given by President Barron and Vice President Sims to overhaul the student fee process, or the inclusion of a voting student-selected trustee, or our presence on the various committees of the Board and our invitation to speak today to know that we are in a better place  But the importance – indeed, the essentialness – of student involvement in all aspects of university decision making is not yet embraced by every administrator and every trustee, and I want to pose a challenge to those who haven’t jumped in feet first.

Let’s go back to the 1950s for a second. Only a few years later, Jesse Arnelle would be elected as the first black student government president to serve at a major university, months before Brown v. Board of Education was decided. A few years later, Dr. Eric Walker became Penn State’s president. Dr.Walker is a man who often referred – and Trustee Arnelle can back me up – to Penn State as having TWO presidents, himself and the student body president. This is a time when the Penn State student governments had offices and held their meetings in Old Main. This is a time when Penn State students ran the library, built the HUB, and contributed to a great deal many things that continue to enrich Penn State student life today.

Now, higher education has obviously changed considerably from the days of Jesse Arnelle and Eric Walker’s two president concept, but not all of its sentiment need be lost. Consider, when working with future student government leaders in our roles, what a Real University actually means. Memory of our past can improve the present and change the future. When students are treated and referred to as customers, we lose. When trustees, professors, townspeople and administrators view themselves as simply a conveyor belt of knowledge – or worse, businesspeople — and students – the very students who give our great University its lasting and enduring spirit – are viewed as too young to be informed, we lose. When students and their ideas are treated merely as something to manage, we lose. When we all pretend to be merely participants in a marketplace, rather than soulful people living together in a community, sharing in this moment in this place, breathing in the same magic of the Nittany Valley that visionaries like Jesse Arnelle, or Eric Walker, or George and Frances Atherton, or Evan and Rebecca Pugh, or Joe and Sue Paterno breathed, we all lose. These are some of the realities that my six years at Penn State have forced me to face, and they’ve changed my life, the highest calling to which a Real University can aspire.

I believe that the larger Penn State becomes by raw metrics, by numbers of whatever measure, the more vital it becomes to make it small again. And when we let marketing and public relations rule the day, or treat Penn State like its selling a product from the supermarket shelf, as another former Penn State president once described it, we fail tragically short of living up to what “We Are Penn State” really means.

And this all goes back to students, and embracing the 97,000 people – people fully capable of informing decisions on how their university is governed – in all that you do as University leaders and decision makers. I challenge this group: Why stop at one student trustee? Why stop at 2 or 3? Why not have students on every committee? Invite us to your meetings, and we will invite you to ours. The student body is eager to participate in all that you do — the participation of which is a hallmark of a healthy university.

I thank you all for a great term, for your dedication to a true shared governance system at Penn State, and I hope and trust that our successors will be met with the same candor of openness and willingness to work together — as you all have — to continue the indomitable Penn State spirit of developing excellence in all things.

Thank you.