Visiting 119 N. Barnard St.

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.

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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

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. 

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

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.