Week of Jan. 16
Since 1986, Penn State has honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a week full of service and events sponsored by the Office of Student Activities along with the MLK, Jr. Commemoration Committee.
“This year’s theme is a clarion call for those who choose to remain silent in the face of injustice to speak up and advocate for justice,” said Cameron Spiller, then a senior majoring in economics and the Executive Director of the MLK, Jr. Commemoration Week.
“What’s most exciting about this week is that, unique from most other programs, it engages the entire Penn State and State College community in dialogue surrounding plight of people of color in America, why America has yet to fulfill its promise of equal justice to all people, and what needs to be done so that it will sooner than later.”
Students had the opportunity to volunteer at various places on campus and around State College.
The week also featured a visit from Tom Houck, a former assistant and driver for Martin Luther King, Jr.
Houck has been a civil rights activist since his late youth and volunteered for MLK’s Souther Christian Leadership Conference in 1966. From there, Houck became a personal assistant and driver to King until his death. Now, he gives bus tours of civil rights sites in Atlanta, Ga.
As Martin Luther King said, silence is certainly no virtue. What we have to look at is the ability for us to continue the movement, and we have that opportunity thanks to the work he put in. … I’m delighted by the fact that Penn State is taking on a different kind of situation in dealing with civil rights today. King’s movement is really today’s movement, which is income inequality and affordable housing. Tom Houck
Dr. Cornel West concluded the week with a keynote speech.
West talked about how MLK was shaped by tradition and community, and how he was able to create love despite being so hated in his time.
Though it wasn’t the main focus of his speech, West did find time to address Donald Trump and many of the problems surrounding his presidency.
“I believe in charitable Southern hatred,” West joked. “Donald Trump is still my brother, the problem is… the injustice… I can’t stand unfairness and injustice.”
“Everything is at stake,” West said, telling the audience to continue fighting against bigotry and tyranny. “That’s what MLK has always been about.”
Protesters lined up at the Allen Street Gates Saturday, Jan. 21 in solidarity with the Women’s Marches taking place the same day in Washington D.C. and around the world. Around 100 protesters chanted and sang while holding signs, cheering whenever cars passing by honked in support.
The protests in State College and elsewhere were held in opposition to President Trump’s inauguration and administration. Protests have been going on since Election Night, and have yet to stop. People in America (and even across the world) are protesting in hopes that their greatest fears will not come true and so that their voices may be heard.
“We want to take a strong stance against bigotry and say that it’s not okay to push out people… A lot of people, including myself, are part of marginalized groups that historically have been subjugated in the United States, and we don’t want to move backwards,” said senior Chris Chiti. “I don’t think that America is great now, but I think we can make it better.”
For many, it seems like solidarity is the main goal in protesting, as well as raising visibility of the movement against Trump.
“While I fully support protesting, I wouldn’t say this is a protest. I would say this is a coming together of love and solidarity across the world,” said Mark Kissling, a State College resident. “Democracy rests on the work of people, the community building, and talking to each other and coming up with solutions. I think it’s essential for people to come together and talk across differences… I have a whole lot of hope and faith in all of us, in the people.”
Rhythm Spotlight XIV is part of the Pro Breaking Tour, an alliance between Freestyle Session and Silverback Bboy Events dating back to 2014 . The second tour event of the year, Rhythm Spotlight XIV follows Paris’ ‘Chill in the City’ as part of the global Satellite Series.
Early in the year, President Trump signed Executive Order 13769 into law, which suspended visas for citizens from Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Somalia.
Around campus, students from Penn State felt the consequences of the decision.
Penn State junior Abdul Al-Kaf hasn’t seen his family in almost three years. And now he doesn’t know when he can go home again.
Due to ongoing political turmoil and civil war in his native Yemen (where his entire family lives), Al-Kaf hasn’t left the United States since starting his industrial engineering degree in 2014. Although he wanted to go home during semester breaks, he couldn’t afford running the risk of not being able to renew his student visa.
“I don’t know what’s coming in the future,” he said mournfully. “At some point you [start to] feel like you are a threat, your family’s a threat, your friends.”
“When I came here, I had a goal to just let [people] know what Yemen is, and show them the beautiful picture of Yemen,” he continued. His eyes watered as his voice began to falter, the pain audible in his words.
“Now it’s like… everything has collapsed.”
Others’ family members weren’t so lucky. Tahir Mohammed, a Sudanese-American junior, had more than one cousin affected: One had been doing his medical residency in the United States, but was back home visiting his family in Saudi Arabia when the executive order was signed, presumably leaving him stuck there for the time being. Another had just finished college and wanted to visit Mohammed and his family in America, but saw her scheduled interview for a visa suddenly canceled.
“History tends to repeat itself,” Muhammed said, citing Japanese internment during World War II. “No one ever thought that would happen to Japanese [American] citizens either.”
“I’m not saying that it could happen like that… but this is just the beginning. This is [only] his second week in office.”
Feb. 2 - 4
Like a local Soundcloud rapper, No Refund Theatre’s Spring season performance of Peter and the Starcatcher had a pleasantly lo-fi aesthetic: the DIY props, costumes, and a playful cast suited the Peter Pan prequel’s not-so-serious tone.
Directed by Sarah Chairnoff and Abbie Jensen, with assistant direction from Meg Reed and Chaz Pod, No Refund Theatre kicked off February’s theater spell with a suitably magical opening performance of Rick Elice’s Peter and the Starcatcher (February 2-4). The play, based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, serves as an origin story for Peter Pan, prior to his adventures with Wendy in Neverland.
Emotions were fraught at times as as a contingent of Trump supporters, many wearing bright red “Make America Great Again” caps, showed up at the Allen Street Gates to counter-protest the weekly Standing At The Gates For Justice protest. Members from the two groups occasionally clashed throughout the scheduled one-hour protest, although the event was peaceable for the most part.
This was the latest of several standoffs that have occurred between Trump supporters and protesters since the election. Anti-Trump protesters have gathered at the Allen Street Gates at least a half-dozen times since the inauguration, starting with the local Sister Rally held in solidarity with international Women’s Marches on Jan. 21.
Ice Luminary World Record
5,622 ice luminaries lit up State College, setting an unofficial world record for ice luminaries displayed at one time. It’s safe to say it was lit.
THON 2017 electrified the Bryce Jordan Center in February, raising funds for Four Diamonds and giving children and families suffering from pediatric cancer a weekend to remember.
The weekend was filled with music and dancing and some special guests, including Joe Jonas and band DNCE.
February also saw a campus visit from Ibtihaj Muhammad, an Olympic fencer, sponsored by the Student Programming Association. Muhammad became the first Muslim woman to wear a hijab during the Olympics.
Black Women Rock
On Saturday, March 18th, 2017, Penn State’s Black Student Union held its 6th annual Black Women Rock awards show, an uplifting and motivational event that was held at the Days Inn hotel downtown to celebrate black women and their accomplishments.
Black Women Rock started at Penn State in 2012 and is a culmination of achieved women in their fields, a variety of student performances and a guest speaker each year. It celebrates the accomplishments, brilliance, and contributions of African American women at Penn State.
The Student Programming Association (SPA) hosted a Brothers Osborne concert in Alumni Hall in February as part of SPA LateNight. The free event brought out about 200 people to see the Grammy-nominated country group. Brothers Osborne performed some of their top songs including “Pawn Shop“, “American Crazy“, “Greener Pastures“, “Rum“, and many more.
The University of California Berkeley Azaad won the 1st place trophy at the fifth annual Infusion dace competition, beating out eight other dance groups. The Hindi Film dance team was the only group to travel all the way from the west coast to present their theme, “The Waiting Room”. UCB Azaad is a team that strives to connect others with Bollywood culture through their entertainment and passionate dancing. Traveling nationwide has allowed them to share their combination of Indian classical, folk, and modern styles of dance to their audience.
UPUA 12th Assembly Elections
This year, 12,301 votes were cast, approximately 29.7% of the University Park undergraduate population and a new voter turnout record. Kaite Jordan and Alex Shockley got 8,322 votes (67.7% of the total vote) becoming UPUA’s next President and Vice President, while Samantha Geisinger and Jorge Zurita-Coronado received 3,892 (32%).
“We are going to work towards making student life better. We’ll do whatever it takes to get there,” Jordan said when asked about her legislative priorities.
Take Back the Night
The Sisters of Lambda Theta Alpha hold “Take Back the Night” an evening shining light on sexual violence.
Paul Robeson Birthday
In honor of activist Paul Robeson’s 119th birthday, the Paul Robeson Cultural Center held a celebration & awards show.
Paul Robeson, born in 1898 was a musician and actor involved in the Civil Rights Movement. He was a graduate of Rutgers College, now Rutgers University, where he played varsity football and was the class valedictorian. Robeson’s involvement in Civil Rights stemmed from the Spanish Civil War, fascism, and social injustices he experienced in his own life. Robeson’s performing arts career took him to Broadway and around the world as he used his talents to bring attention to Civil Rights issues.
Although Robeson did not attend Penn State, faculty and staff members chose Robeson as the center’s namesake in 1986 after a remodel of the Black Cultural Center because his “achievements, dedication and commitment in the areas of intellectual development, physical excellence, humanitarian spirit and artistic accomplishments were to serve as a model for all college students.”
Night of Remembrance
Every year, the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) holds a vigil for students who have passed away during the school year. This vigil was special because it was the first time that Penn State students from Commonwealth campuses were commemorated; previous vigils had only honored students from University Park. Opening the event, the Pennharmonics, Penn State University’s premier co-ed a cappella group, performed a heart wrenching song about being gone but never forgotten.
One by one, the fallen names were called and a student went up to light their candle and stand on the Old Main steps, facing the crowd:
Starrett Metzler, Karina Nunez-Fabian, Shannon Mathers, Rahman Hassan, Madison Hill, Jedidiah Seckinger, Christina Anthony, Scott Loper, Matthew Kayser, George Samah, Garren Stamp, Byron Markle, Nicolai Tereschak, Hayley McMillen, Matthew Wolfgang, Stephanie Inman, Benjamin Harner, Robert Lane, Sarah Barbale, Andrew Edwards, Jasper Hicks, Lucas Shook, Luke Still, Samuel Kepler, Stephanie Matteo, Timothy Piazza, and Cody Mullen.
Movin’ On, Penn State’s annual student-run music festival welcomed a host of artists to campus for a day of free music, fun and games. Artists included rapper D.R.A.M and punk-pop band All Time Low.
Penn Staters headed back to Happy Valley over the summer for Arts Fest, an annual Central Pennsylvania summer festival highlighting a spectrum of art, including music, paintings and more.
Penn State President Eric Barron, along with various faculty members, welcomed the Class of 2021 during Penn State’s 2017 New Student Convocation in August.
The Class of 2021 is extremely impressive, with 8,000 students selected from 54,000 applicants, from 44 states and 68 countries. They also bring a stellar academic record, with more than half of the students boasting a high school grade point average of 3.8 or higher.
Ogechi Nnodim, an Eberly College of Science first-year student, felt the “We Are” spirit that the university prides itself on.
“I felt like I was really part of the family,” Nnodim said. “It was amazing.”
MLK, Jr. Plaza Opening
The ribbon cutting ceremony for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza took place in August on the corner of West College and Fraser Streets. The plaza has a sweeping wall with images of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from his speech given in Rec Hall on January 21, 1965.
The motion to pass this idea of changing the plaza to celebrate the legacy of MLK was led by Peter Morris, a former member of the State College Borough Council, in April 2012. The Dr. MLK Jr. Plaza committee and subcommittee dedicated their efforts to making a space where people can be brought together in the State College and Penn State University community.
The plaza is designed to be an active space with a stage to hold special events. Citizens will continue to be reminded and educated about the lifelong commitment of Dr. King’s advocacy for peace, equality, and justice.
Super Duper Kyle took the stage at the Nittany Block Party on Pollock Road, ending the first week of school with a bang. The high energy event included Kyle singing some of his most notable songs and “We Are… Penn State!” chants.
Penn State’s College Republicans held its ninth annual 9/11 remembrance Sept. 11 on the steps of Old Main, which included words from club president Grant Worley, Rabbi Hershy Gourarie of Penn State Chabad, and State Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R).
The College Republicans also put out 2,977 small American flags (one for each American life lost on 9/11) on the Old Main Lawn, arranged to read “United We Stand”.
9/11 Heroes Run
Every September, the Travis Manion Foundation (TMF) encourages volunteers to organize local 5k runs. As listed on their website, these events serve to “support TMF and honor fallen heroes.”
Michael Sam kicked off the first lecture of the Student Programming Association (SPA)’s 2017 Distinguished Speaker Series. Sam talked about how he overcame tragedies and pain within his own family. He also revealed how he came to own his truth, and gained success during his football career.
Touch of India
National Coming Out Day
2017 THON 5K
2018 Senior Class Gift
The Class of 2018 has chosen the Textbook and Educational Resources Fund, HUB Alma Mater Display, and Student Farm Endowment as this year’s senior class gift.
“I’m really excited about all of them, I think they each bring a different piece to the university obviously with the Alma Mater [HUB display], it’s a really big sense of pride for students as they pass through, an area that they pass through on a daily basis,” said Lauren Nelson, Executive Director of the Senior Class Gift Campaign and a senior majoring in chemical engineering.
“With the student farm it’s going to increase the efforts of sustainability for the university and it will impact students in a way we didn’t know was possible and I think the textbooks and educational resources fund will be really beneficial for students and hopefully they don’t have the same struggles that those who have come before them had.”
Penn State Clothesline Project
As part of Domestic Violence and Awareness Month, the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center displayed the Penn State Clothesline Project and Empty Place at the Table.
The Clothesline Project displayed shirts with writing with shirt colors signifying certain types of abuse. Red, pink, and orange shirts represented rape or sexual assault, yellow, beige, and brown shirts represented battery or assault, blue and green represented incest or child sexual abuse, purple and lavender represented homophobic violence and white signified those who have died because of violence.
Empty Place at the Table is a display created by the Women’s Resource Center of Lackawanna County. The Centre County Women’s Resource Center adopted the idea, representing 13 people in Centre County that were killed as a result of domestic violence from 1998 – 2015.
The Arboretum at Penn State held its seventh annual Pumpkin Festival ahead of Halloween. The two-day festival included live music, food, activities, and a jack-o-lantern display.
The No Lost Generation hosted a refugee simulation event in November, shedding light on life as a refugee.
Hannah Magoveny, who is the NLG Events Executive, admitted that the tent wasn’t an exact representation of a refugee’s living conditions, but that it still served a purpose in teaching people the daily struggles refugees face.
“We want to highlight to people that this is still an issue. I know the refugee crisis got a lot of attention in previous years and people are starting to forget about it,” she said. “So we want to still make it known to people that this is still a crisis that is happening and people need help.”
The refugee simulation consisted of a tent complete with makeshift beds, metal cookware, a candle, and boxed foods. According to Magoveny, the setup was supposed to resemble a UNHCR or a U.N refugee camp abroad. These organizations, along with Serve State of Penn State’s campus, helped sponsor the event. In addition, NLG included a virtual reality segment, where participants using virtual goggles would be able to walk through a camp and experience what refugee life is like.
State College Elections
Democrat and Penn State Alumnus Don Hahn was elected as the 2017 State College Borough Mayor with 2,374 votes, making up about 53.82% of the State College population.
Hahn is a Centre County native and was a State High Graduate of 1982. Hahn had previously succeeded in winning the unofficial primary election back in May, receiving 43.81% of the vote.
100 Days 'Til THON
THON took over the HUB-Robeson Center too celebrate 100 days until THON weekend, a 46-hour event taking place in the Bryce Jordan Center.
For the Glory Talent Show.
Latinx Read-In Event
Members of the Penn State community stopped by the HUB-Robeson’s Monumental Staircase to participate in the first Latinx Read-In, a program sponsored by the Multicultural Office in the College of Education.
Books by Latinx authors and illustrators or written about the Latinx experience lined the staircase, and readers could choose any of the children and young adult literature titles.
“We wanted to highlight Latinx writers and have them see other books that they maybe haven’t had access to before,” said Emily Aguilo-Perez, an assistant professor of education and one of the organizers of the event.
Transgender Night of Remembrance
LGBTQA+ students held a vigil for Transgender Day of Remembrance on Thursday, Nov. 16 to honor the lives of those who passed away and identified as transgender.
The vigil took place at Old Main where groups of students gathered and listened as students read a list of the names of transgender people across the nation who have died because of transphobic acts of violence.
“Hopefully, it showed them that we are here, and we are listening to them and [we] are supporting them,” said Brook Mitchell, a senior interdisciplinary digital studio major and someone who spoke during the event. “It’s kind of nice to be like, ‘Hey, we are here for you.’”
“I love getting to see the logo for the upcoming THON. It’s cool to see how different the logos are. Getting to see my Four Diamonds friends and my org is great and I love being with my favorite people,” Otstott said. “Now that I’m cured I get to experience THON in a different aspect and be a THON student now.”
Military decor filled the walls and room of the White Building that afternoon, and at any given moment, children could be seen running around the gym or playing carnival games with THON volunteers.
“The theme this year is “Unite the Fight” and it’s a military theme because our idea behind it was that all of our THON volunteers are coming from all different backgrounds and have different reasons why they are involved in this cause, but we’re all fighting for a single cause at the same time. That’s been something really cool to see come to life,” Catherine Kutys, a senior supply change management major, and THON Special Events committee member said.
Penn State announced Friday that it will not meet with the Coalition of Graduate Student Employees (CGE), a group working to organize Penn State’s graduate students, citing that a potential meeting could appear to be misinterpreted as collective bargaining.
CGE delivered a letter to administration on Dec. 6, demanding action on workplace issues and a meeting between the group and higher administration to discuss the issues before Dec. 20, 2017. The letter was addressed to President Barron, Provost Jones, and Graduate School Dean Vasilatos-Younken and others.
“After careful consideration of this request, the University has concluded that while the legal process related to CGE’s petition to unionize is ongoing, a meeting with CGE could be misinterpreted as collective bargaining. For this reason, President Barron, Provost Jones and Dean Vasilatos-Younken will not be able to meet with CGE,” said the university in a statement.
Pop Up Ave
“Hanukkah is a time where we celebrate the parallel of light over darkness, love over hate and good over evil,” said Rabbi Hershy Gourarie, co-director of Chabad for undergraduates at Penn State.
“This is the true spirit of Penn State, this is the true spirit of Happy Valley and together we can make this the true spirit of the entire world.”
Graduate Tax Protest
Graduate students around the county breathed a small sigh of relief after a provision in Congress’s tax plan that would increase tax burdens for graduate students did not make the final version of the bill.
The provision would have repealed the ability for graduate students to exclude funds received for scholarships, fellowships, and similar funding from taxable income if the funds were used for education purposes.
Penn State thanked the community for its efforts in keeping the current tax benefits in place. All around the county, graduate students protested the bill.