We could say a “We Are” statue demonstrates our unyielding unity in the face of a challenging year for Penn State’s student body.
We could say engraving that statue with the words of Penn State’s Alma Mater goes a step further, reiterating the lyrics that time and time again remind us how much “Dear Old State” “didst mold us.”
We could say this symbol in the Class of 2013’s name will be a future source of pride for the university — poised to be just as celebrated as the Nittany Lion Shrine.
But it’s hard to objectively look at the options on the table for this year’s senior class gift and say that the seniors who participated really made the right choice when a majority of those 1,700-plus students who voted chose to fund a new campus icon instead of a donation to help children who were abused.
In lieu of the winning “We Are” sculpture, seniors also had the option of putting their support behind a Rec Hall beautification project or a donation to the Penn State Hershey Center for the Protection of Children. Specifically, the latter would fund the Transforming the Lives of Children Clinic, an effort to “give comprehensive primary care to victims of child abuse who are in foster care, as well as provide legal advocacy for victims,” according to Penn State Live.
Say what you want about the value of a sculpture that shouts a school rallying cry we already hear over and over again — but what real value does that have, beyond being another spot to photograph? It might say “We Are,” but the sculpture’s popularity in the gift selection process this year begs serious questions about who “We [really] Are.”
Even though the Class of 2013 gift isn’t going to formally pool a large sum of money to help a cause that — as we’ve realized in the past year — warrants serious attention, there’s still room to turn this “We Are” sculpture into something that could hold significance beyond whatever corner of campus it ends up occupying, once completed.
As it moves forward with plans for the structure, the Senior Class Gift Committee should consider incorporating some philanthropic component into the gift — maybe something as simple as a collections box nearby, where visitors can deposit spare change to be collected for the clinic that might have otherwise received funds.
As a community, we take pride in efforts like the “Blue Out” for abuse prevention and hardly think twice about supporting the Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon. The donation to the Center for the Protection of Children would have been a noble continuation of that Penn State spirit.
Finding some way to still honor that spirit through this year’s gift would leave seniors with a legacy they could really be proud of.