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Penn State puts our problems in perspective

Wesley Vaughn

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I am at times – fine, all the time – overly critical of our administration. Over the past two years specifically, I have vented my frustrations about areas where I believe it could step up to gain the respect of the entire campus.

My complaints boil down to the struggle of an impatient and passionate optimist trying to convince the ocean liner that is the University of Alabama to turn at a moment’s notice, mainly my moment’s notice. I only call for the impossible because working to achieve the impossible leads you to be the best possible. And, our University can be the best possible.

Through some of my involvements, I’ve had many opportunities to connect with administrators. Rest assured, I fully realize the immense irony and possible hypocrisy. I consistently walk away from these meetings feeling that we both see eye-to-eye once we have explained our side of a particular issue. The administrator will explain logistical and political hurdles, and I will reason out the intentions of my columns.

I compare my purpose to the title-giving metaphor at the end of “Catfish,” an unconventional documentary about social media. The film ends with the seemingly displaced scene of a previously non-interviewed husband, who recites a story of how cod used to be shipped from Alaska to China in large vats.

The problem with this was that the codfish’ inactivity during the trip resulted in a buildup of tasteless, mushy fat by the time the ships reached China. The solution turned out to involve throwing a few catfish in with the cod to keep them moving and alert. Sure, I may go about it the wrong way, but I consider myself a catfish – as strange as equating myself to an aquatic animal may sound.

I want to make it clear that I do not hate nor have I ever hated our administration. I regularly question, criticize and pose suggestions, but I do not have an agenda against it other than finding and pushing for ways to improve campus relations.

While writing this column, I could not avoid mentioning the ongoing investigation at Penn State University. The allegations, which Jake Gray wrote about on Tuesday, involve horrendous abuses of power, irreprehensible transgressions and unforgivable silence. All of which put my various complaints into startling perspective.

I hate to even put the Penn State administration alongside ours in the same column. What’s happening at Penn State isn’t an isolated betrayal of campus; it’s a betrayal of the entire Penn State community as well as the academic and athletic communities.

Administrators at our University are not bad people. They chart a more conservative course than many students agree with at times, but for the most part, they share the same concerns as students.

An over-expanded campus, historical biases and questionable head turning, they see all of that, and this is the common ground that I know could be prominent if we had a more constant public dialogue on campus between students and administrators.

 

Wesley Vaughn is a senior majoring in public relations and political science. His column runs on Wednesday.

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Penn State puts our problems in perspective