Penn State’s independent student-run newspaper, The Daily Collegian, took a stand after the university announced the commemoration of late coach Joe Paterno’s first game.
The editorial gained attention outside Happy Valley. Newspapers from The Chicago Tribune to The New York Times noted the students’ opinion that “remaining rutted in the past does nothing for the future.”
Some attention has been more direct and negative, aimed at the person responsible for the editorial page.
In an open letter Monday, dozens of staff and faculty members, past and present, stood up for what they called the “good sense — and considerable courage — of Opinions Editor Lauren Davis.”
“We note with anger and sorrow that Davis has met with vicious, personal threats that are toxic to the climate of our campus,” the letter read. “Retaliation, especially of the kind directed at Davis, provides pernicious cover for the spread of misogyny and sexual violence on a campus where these are already of grave concern. We must therefore be vigilant in our opposition to it. To do otherwise would be to default on our responsibility as teachers.”
They called on President Eric Barron for action.
Barron met with Davis Tuesday.
“Our student newspaper and Lauren have the full support of the university. We absolutely support freedom of speech and are saddened by those who fail to recognize the rights of our students and the value of their opinions,” Barron said.
Barron said that Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims had also reached out to Davis, as well as another student who protested the Paterno tribute at Saturday’s football game against Temple. The university’s goal was “protecting their freedom to express viewpoints with which we and others may disagree.”
That move comes just days after Barron’s announcement at a board of trustees meeting Friday of a yearlong diversity and inclusion initiative, “All In,” meant to celebrate differences and free speech.