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Posted: Monday, November 7, 2011 12:00 am

While he didn’t make any mention of the issues surrounding the indictment of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky or charges against other senior administrators, Penn State President Graham Spanier said Sunday that the biggest issue facing the university is a familiar one to students.

“The biggest problem at Penn State is the excessive consumption of alcohol,” he said.

Spanier welcomed all attendees at this fall’s Encampment — a retreat for student leaders — by thanking them for taking the time and effort to regulate and evaluate student activities and issues.

He kicked off the event Sunday at The Penn Stater with a welcoming speech.

He said he remembers the days in the 1970s and early 1980s, when he participated in Encampment. The only difference between then and now is that the event used to be a weekend camping trip.

But Spanier said he’s glad that the now one-day event has remained true to its main purpose: to enhance student leaders with more leadership skill and community engagement.

“Today’s effort is an opportunity to regulate and evaluate student affairs, community members and staff faculty through open dialect,” Spanier said.

Spanier followed with a brief question-and-answer session regarding the process of decision-making and what it means to be good leader.

“Sometimes you can’t do it all by yourself. But what you can do is accept help and listen to others,” he said.

Spanier could not be reached for additional comment following his speech.

University Park Undergraduate Association Director of Encampment Colleen Cannon (junior-accounting and economics) said she was content with the turnout of more than 50 student organizations involved this year and with their ability to interact with the staff members and fellow students involved.

Encampment also provided the student leaders the opportunity to engage in conversations about promoting their organizations better and getting more people involved. Another big topic of discussion was increasing campus safety and social networking.

Following Spanier was Associate Athletic Director Joe Battista, who talked about what it takes to be a courageous leader and the importance of never stopping learning.

“It’s easy to lead when the times get easy, it’s when it gets tough that you really learn more about yourself as a leader,” Battista said.

“Sometimes people are like tea bags, you never know how strong they are ‘till you put them in hot water.”

UPUA President TJ Bard said he was pleased with the turnout of speakers and their expertise in the fields discussed.

After lunch, the students participated in an interactive discussion on the importance of communication through social networking in the 21st century.

Mayor Elizabeth Goreham said she was impressed by the engagement of student organizations that participated in Encampment

“Each year the quality of student leaders and excellent questions increases,” she said. “Even I learned a lot today.”

Goreham said she credits Bard (junior-economics and political science) for his great idea of moving the annual Encampment to the first semester of the academic year, rather than the second semester. The change of dates allows everyone to interact more with each other, even after the event, she said.

Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Philip J. Burlingame closed the event with a speech on the history of Encampment. In the many years Encampment has been held, the event continues to highlight “the importance of making every student organization stronger and Penn State a better place.”

He only hopes that next year’s Encampment continues to have the same opportunity of dialect between student, faculty and community.

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