Football rivalries aside, it looks like the University of Michigan and Michigan State are finally on Penn State's side.
Schools present at the most recent Association of Big Ten Students (ABTS) conference have pledged their support, both financially and morally, in helping Penn State's student government move in a new direction -- away from the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA).
The ABTS conference, held biannually, convened Aug. 16 to 19, and though UPUA, Penn State's official student government, was originally invited, the invitation was rescinded based on previous legislation passed by the ABTS that did not recognize it as an effective student government.
Members of Safeguard Old State (SOS), an organization that has recently gained renown for their actions regarding student issues on campus, attended instead.
"I think there's an obvious support for the cause," said Gavin Keirans, SOS executive director, conference attendee and former UPUA presidential candidate. "This is great to help [relieve the] stress of what we're trying to do."
The "cause," Keirans added, is "an effective student representation" at Penn State.
Michigan State University has pledged to financially back supporters of change to UPUA, said Juan Carlos Elizalde, ABTS conference representative and Michigan State student.
"It's awful that students don't have their own voices," Elizalde said. "I'm going to help Penn State out as much as I can."
Elizalde said the process of allocating finances to Penn State has begun, and he is "negotiating" within his student government.
"Basically, [the money] will be turned over to SOS," he said. "We like SOS."
Michigan State's student representative body, the Associated Students of Michigan State University, also has plans to pass a bill in their legislation supporting the "SOS initiative," Elizalde said.
The University of Michigan has involved their assistant dean of students and director of student activities and leadership, Susan Wilson, who has called for an "investigation," Keirans said. Calls made to Wilson were not returned as of press time yesterday.
ABTS executive director and Michigan student Anton Vuljaj said he is "completely disgusted" with the formation and current constitution of UPUA.
"[Wilson] sympathized completely and was in shock," Vuljaj added.
Vuljaj said he needed to check with his assembly to see if The University of Michigan would be allowed to allocate funds to Penn State.
Keirans hoped the support of other Big Ten schools would help bring about change.
"Michigan and Michigan State are two of the biggest proponents of what we want to do," Keirans said. "Michigan really wants to get their administration involved and launch an investigation and talk to the people at Old Main and see what's happening."
Members of SOS are planning to have a phone conference some time next week with members of the ABTS, said Tom Shakely, SOS director of advocacy initiatives.
"They have said ... we recognize [that] SOS is the most active student organization at Penn State," Shakely said. "They definitely sympathize with our situation."
Current UPUA president Hillary Lewis, who did not attend the August ABTS conference, said she wasn't aware of future actions that may be taken by other Big Ten schools.
"I think Michigan should talk to UPUA and not do anything behind our back," she said. "These people should let me know what's going on."
Still, she said, she wasn't concerned about ABTS involvement.
"Getting ABTS recognition is not my first priority," she said. "My first priority is making changes for the student body at Penn State."
Shakely, however, said his "main hope" for the semester is to establish an effective relationship between UPUA and the ABTS.
"I hope they can rebuild that relationship that was destroyed by [Student Affairs vice president] Vicky Triponey's maneuvering in Student Affairs," Shakely said. "I would love to see ABTS be able to recognize UPUA as the official student government this January [at the next conference]. I want UPUA to go because I think Hillary and people in UPUA have a lot to learn from them."
Calls made to Triponey were not returned by press time yesterday.