At a time when Penn State is being slammed for cover-ups involving university officials, many students see this as an opportunity to reset precedent -- to be open and honest with students about matters that ultimately affect them most.
On July 20, the 210 Education Pride, one of the groups that are a part of the Penn State Learning Edge Academic Program, sent a letter to Penn State administrators, which detailed the Pride's discomfort with how the LEAP program leaders handled informing the pride members of an incident that eventually lead to their mentor resigning.
According to the LEAP website, LEAP is a program offered through the Office for Summer Session at Penn State. It is a program that provides first-year students with the opportunity to experience the university on a smaller scale during the summer before the entire student body arrives on campus in the fall.
The students who decide to partake in the LEAP program are split into academic groups, called Prides. These academic groups are each given a mentor, according to the LEAP website, in order to help the students with any questions or concerns regarding their classes or their first college experience.
"Penn State is now involved in an overwhelming amount of damage control due to unfortunate secrecy and cover ups, so shouldn't they be transparent about their future actions instead of withholding information and dismissing student concerns?" The Pride members wrote.
According to the letter, which The Daily Collegian also received, numerous members of the Pride were frustrated with the situation that caused their LEAP mentor, as well as other mentors, to resign. According to the letter, the biggest issue was the time between losing their mentor and getting an email that "lacked empathy and compassion" that told them they would be getting a new mentor.
Yaw Agawu-Kakraba, Director of the Office for Summer Session issued a statement in response to the letter written by the 210 Education Pride. In his statement, Agawu-Kakraba said that the LEAP Office had to find replacements, which is why informing the students of the decision took time.
"Time constraint and logistical considerations dictated when staff from the Office for Summer Session sent out the memo," he said, according to the statement. "Given the urgency to inform students in the affected prides, I did not think it was wise to wait till Monday, July 16 before addressing the students as a group."
In the statement, he said there was no cover-up and that no information that could be released without breaking confidentiality was withheld from the Pride.
Although the issue in the letter from the 210 Education Pride detailed frustration stemming from the lack of notification of the change, Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers wrote in an email, "it was left up to the individual mentors to determine how and what they wanted to communicate with their prides. Some chose to simply leave without notifying their students."
Agawu-Kakraba said in the statement that it was the LEAP mentor's decision to resign in this instance, citing confidentiality as to why he could not further discuss the mentor's decision. After having a "frank conversation" with the mentor, they offered to resign because they broke some of the LEAP mentorship rules, he said.
Agawu-Kakraba wrote in an email, "the LEAP policies are not going to change because of the memo that was sent to the Office for Summer Session."
Agawu-Kakraba noted that they have had great mentors for 19 years in the LEAP program.
"We have also had to deal with those mentors who, unfortunately, have not lived up to the high standards that are required of our student mentors," Agawu-Kakraba said according to the statement.
According to the website, in order to become a mentor, a student would need to meet criteria that includes; at least 24 successfully completed credits, training sessions and a GPA of at least 3.0.
Mentors are technically employees of the university.
According to the LEAP website, mentors who complete the LEAP process will receive $665 and a single-dorm room as well as a meal plan.
With regard to the handling of the situation, the resignation of the mentors abided by the policies of the university, Powers said.
"The entire process was guided by and vetted with the Office of Human Resources," Powers said.
In addition to their concerns, the letter from 210 Education Pride stated that the students had enjoyed the majority of their LEAP experience.
Though the letter written by 210 Education Pride sent to the Office for Summer Session and other university officials was signed "The 210 Education Pride," Agawu-Kakraba said he received an email from a member of the Pride who dissented with what the letter said.