Special Reports

Community could cut loose at pedestrian mall

Although the idea of a pedestrian mall in downtown State College recently was voted down by the Borough Council by 4-2, we students think a welcoming, festive, well-lit space would be money well spent for the entire community — and would offer a healthy alternative to nights when nothing is open past 10 p.m. except bars.

While the common complaint from students that there is nothing to do but drink might not be completely fair, it is true that many activities are unappealing or out of reach for students.

Without a car, we can only reach one out of three local movie theaters by bus, and the service stops between 9 and 10 p.m. While LateNight Penn State at the HUB offers safe alternatives to drinking, most students agree that it can’t offer 40,000 energized young people an adequate outlet.

What we envision is a pedestrian mall featuring public restrooms, small shops and restaurants that stay open late, including live music and entertainment for all ages on the weekends. We imagine a revitalized downtown destination that is led by a town-gown committee organizing one big event a month, with changing themes that attract all ages in great numbers.

How about a ’50s era dance with a live band and lessons from high school and college students in swing dance clubs and grandparents who grew up jitterbugging? Or a costumed karaoke contest? Or a dance sponsored by one of our international student clubs?

A pedestrian mall also could serve the needs of student organizations that want a safe, family-friendly place to raise funds for charities. And — no small matter — the installation of permanent public restrooms downtown would encourage students to use the facilities instead of your lawns.

The students of Penn State need to be remembered for more than their destructive behaviors that result from bored overdrinking; we would like to ask you to join us downtown for a dance instead.

Finally, we must end with a note about the infamous State Patty’s Day. Many expressed outrage when the collective student response to being told what not to do was to do it more, resulting in the record-breaking crime statistics after our most recent celebration.

While we do not condone excessive drinking by any means, we feel that embracing the culture in moderated form might be more effective than forcing stricter punishments or shutting down new traditions. We propose that instead of telling students no, why not say, “Yes, but on our terms.”

We request a full-out parade in honor of our State Patty’s Day. Instead of bringing shame to the name, as happened this past year, why not bring rowdy joy to our community by throwing the parade together — State College schools, residential organizations and local businesses could pair with Penn State clubs, fraternities and sororities. Imagine how much fun your kids would have riding on a float with the juggling club or working with the same people who bring about Thon every year?

Not only would we all get to know each other better, but we students would have more responsibilities and more direct contact with residents, thus more incentive to behave and remain sober while celebrating.

Think about it: Homecoming and Blue-White weekends are also big drinking weekends. Our proposed State Patty’s Day parade could create a new type of tradition in which responsibility and accountability are also part of the fun.

Students Emily Posocco, Sarah Recchio, Amanda Ammon, Kaytlin Stuart, Meghan O’Rourke, Tracy Custis and Kate McClatchy contributed this column.

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