A typical part of any college graduation experience is taking photos around memorable campus landmarks with friends and family. However, that was not the case for many Penn State graduates this year.
On May 8, a series of Penn State landmarks, including the Nittany Lion Shrine and Old Main, were vandalized overnight with messages reading “DEATH BY COP”, “DEATH BY HAZING”, “DEATH BY SUICIDE” and ” DEATH BY PSU CULTURE”.
The words “TIME IS UP” were found painted red on the front doors of Old Main, and a note read, “Should have listened when you had the chance,” at the Hintz Family Alumni Center as well. Lion Shrine’s ear has been broken. , and the statue was covered in red paint, which seemed to mimic blood.
As enigmatic as these messages are, they represent a larger problem encountered in academia – the need for administrative transparency in criminal matters.
On the day news of the vandalism broke, Penn State University Police and Public Safety Sgt. Tim Townsend said there was “an active investigation in multiple locations since last night” and that the department was “working on various leads”, but since then no major updates have been released regarding the status of the case.
Whoever vandalized these monuments strategically chose graduation in order to get their message across, but their message was unclear to many, and the university should have provided a greater security presence on campus for a weekend full of major events.
Alumni and students have rightly taken to social media to criticize these acts against the university, especially on a day like graduation.
Even the owner of a downtown State College business, Weirdoughs Custom Pizzeria, is offering a $3,000 reward to anyone with information that could lead to the arrest of the person(s) responsible for the vandalism.
But if Penn State had kept transparency front and center when it mattered, mass public hysteria might have been avoided.
A university that has a history of not being transparent should, in turn, increase transparency when it comes to updating the community on the status of events like these and more serious crimes that occur on and around campus.
The Lion Shrine itself also has a long history of vandalism, but even then the perpetrators of these incidents were never widely publicized, which could have been used as a deterrent to attack famous monuments in the coming.
As an institution, Penn State must continue to adhere to the Clery Law when it comes to crime reporting, but this may go beyond what is required of the university if there is an ongoing threat to the community.
The Clery Act is a law put in place that requires universities to annually publish information relating to “reporting of crimes, security and access to campus facilities, law enforcement authority, the incidence of alcohol and drug use and the prevention/response to sexual assault, domestic or dating violence and stalking,” according to the law.
Last fall, a record number of forced sex offenses were reported and communicated to the student population via timely warnings issued by University Park, but what happened to the perpetrators after the fact was never known to the public. audience.
While there is a fine line between giving unnecessary attention to offenders and what the university is required to report, sometimes confidentiality and face-saving have to be sacrificed for student safety.
Even when it comes to lawsuits the university faces outside the scope of the Clery Act, Penn State has a responsibility to let the public know what’s going on.
In April, Zara Moss, a former Penn State student on the fencing team, sued the university for sexual harassment in violation of Title IX, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress and superior respondent, and coach- Penn State fencing chief Wes Glon was sued for negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, according to court documents.
Glon was originally suspended for three years on August 16, 2021 by the US Center for SafeSport following alleged misconduct for his failure to report allegations of sexual misconduct against assistant coach George Abashidze, abuse of process and retaliation, according to the SafeSport website.
On May 5, 2020, Jennifer Oldham, owner of the Mid-South Fencers’ Club in North Carolina, filed an alleged sexual misconduct complaint against Abashidze.
Jennifer Oldham, owner of the Mid-South Fencers’ Club in Durham, North Carolina, alleged during a December 12, 2017 flight from Portland, Ore., that an intoxicated Abashidze sat next of her had persisted with “sexual overtures” for several hours, which eventually escalated into physical assault.
Oldham accused the two coaches of trying to bully her into keeping quiet because they allegedly told her no one would believe her and implied they would “make sure of it”.
Glon was reinstated and returned to duty in November 2021 – immediately after the US Center for SafeSport “lifted” his three-year suspension following a hearing before an arbitrator, according to Penn State Athletics.
In her lawsuit, Moss alleged that Glon physically assaulted her and “tormented her for years” by making comments about her appearance and “slinging sexual slurs at every opportunity.”
“Wes’ sexual harassment was so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that he effectively denied Zara access to the educational opportunity afforded by his fencing scholarship and the benefit of participating in divisional athletics. I of Penn State,” the court documents state.
Yet the university remained silent when the lawsuit was filed, and any investigation into coaches and professors who put the student population at risk is usually “ongoing” and “internal.”
It may not be Penn State’s job under the Clery Act to process lawsuits, but morally, this information is what the public should be aware of to keep students safe.
And while a university’s allegiance is not to the general public since there is a reputation and image to uphold, Penn State’s student body and alumni groups deserve the right to know what goes beyond the university-wide “Your Right to Know” emails.
By posting consistent updates on relevant cases and safety issues, Penn State can foster a greater sense of community by showing the time dedicated to protecting Dear Old State and its occupants.
Going forward, the university must publicly hold offenders accountable through transparent discourse surrounding criminal cases to ensure the safety and security of the Penn State community.
Phoebe Cykosky, editor of Daily Collegian Opinion, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.