Upua assembly 14jan2009 :: 0:18:59 to 0:25:49
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0:18:59 to 0:25:49( Edit History Discussion )
Title: Ben Novak

Former Penn State trustee and student government president Ben Novak addressing UPUA on student drinking.

0:19:00 to 0:19:24( Edit History Discussion )

So let me tell you [a story] about the first one, and that's about trying to bring back the past, because people really don't know how to use the past (perhaps). The past is not something you try to make happen again, in the sense of repeating it as though it's something to be done over again, it's something to learn from. It's something to say "if it's been done once, it can be done again."

0:19:24 to 0:19:55( Edit History Discussion )

I want to tell you a story about that: I have been giving talks ever since I came here about the drinking problem, for I see it as the greatest opportunity for student government of the Penn State student body to earn respect of everyone in the community, in the University, among the alumni, and in the media, and to reach the point where student government is listened to with respect and accepted as an indispensable part of the Penn State governance.

0:19:55 to 0:20:35( Edit History Discussion )

Now those of you who've heard me know what I'm talking about. I usually carry around a little book called the Laws written by Plato 2,500 years ago. You can't get too much older than that for written records. Here I am, quoting this, and saying "you should should listen to somebody who wrote a book 2,500 years ago." So I'm definitely talking about old things, and I'm definitely talking that "there's something in there to learn." It sounds like it's half-justified that I'm talking about the past sometimes. Well, let me tell you a story about that.

0:20:35 to 0:21:43( Edit History Discussion )

In early December I had lunch with the mayor of State College borough, William Welch. Now if any of you were following the Collegian last fall—I wasn't here [in the fall], but before that I followed the Collegian for the past couple of years—you'd find that you would get the impression that Bill Welch really doesn't like students, and that Bill Welch is the [co-]chairman of President Spanier's Alcohol Task Force designed to harass the daylights out of you on drinking. He was in favor of the 'tap tax', that tax that would have put a 10% tax on every drink bought in State College, and a lot of other things. So this is the man I'm talking about. When it comes to alcohol and soforth, he's been very, very critical of students, and very in-favor of the harshest reactions to student drinking back then. Many of you have been very upset with many of the things he has been for.

0:21:43 to 0:22:21( Edit History Discussion )

I'm saying all of this to get clear in your mind who I'm talking about, William Welch, the mayor of State College. So I went to lunch with Bill in order to talk to him about a new approach to student drinking. What I was going to talk to him about was Plato's argument that drinking parties were essential to higher education. Essential to the working of the University. That they were important, that they were to be cultivated, not abolished. I had my book of Plato with me (I meant to bring it tonight but forgot).

0:22:21 to 0:23:23( Edit History Discussion )

You would think that the last thing that he wanted to hear was a 2,500-year old argument from Plato about drinking parties being good things for college students. So what was his reaction? I had no sooner started to tell him about it and pull out the book that he said "don't bother Ben, I know that story, I know Plato's argument." He said that was the argument that fundamentally students followed until about 1970 at Penn State. That was back in the period when they started the Phi Psi 500, and a lot of other things, when the borough was all in-favor of those things. He said "yeah, student drinking then was great." There was always some incident, but those where looked at as expectations. Most of the time they were pretty much under control and students could drink like fish and everyone loved them.

0:23:23 to 0:24:15( Edit History Discussion )

But after 1970 everything changed. Nobody drank according to Plato's argument, they drank to get drunk and they did get drunk and it was out of control. He said, "if we could do it back the way they did in 1970 or before, we wouldn't have any problem with drinking in State College." Now I want you to understand that from the end of the prohibition in 1933 until 1950, anybody could drink in the bars of State College, even high school students. The law prohibited it, but there was a technicality in the law that required two witnesses and an affidavit to prove that you were not 21. They just couldn't get two witnesses and an affidavit for every kid who walked into a bar. They didn't try because it was too much paperwork.

0:24:15 to 0:25:26( Edit History Discussion )

So, people drank. I won't go further into that, but drinking was pretty much welcomed and not much of a problem. I don't think that there is a student in this room, expect maybe one or two who have heard me before, that knows or understands how it was that the worst enemy actually agrees with drinking parties by college students. I'm not going to go through Plato's argument here, we'll save that for another time, but I hope that I've gotten you interested in it. But I will say this: you could utterly reverse the brough's attitudes towards students and drinking parties if you were willing to start listening to a few old stories. You would find that people around you, if you put them in terms of those old stories, might think "boy, you're pretty smart" and probably support you in a lot more things that you want to do. You could get credit for solving the problem that Graham Spanier hasn't been able to solve at all.

0:25:26 to 0:25:49( Edit History Discussion )

And I don't mean by prohibiting drinking getting rid of it, I mean by learning how to have proper drinking parties that enhance the University and student life. In fact, if you were willing to take the time to hear and read for yourselves a few old stories, you would learn a lot of new things that you could do.

University Park Undergraduate Association Student Assembly 14-Jan-2009 Meeting

Adopted from: http://www.archive.org/details/upua_assembly_14jan2009

Academic and administrative discourse related to The Pennsylvania State University.

Student Assembly,
University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA),
The Pennsylvania State University

Meeting held 8:13pm on 14-Jan-2009
302 HUB, University Park, Pennsylvania

A listing of other University proceedings is available:
"Penn State University" AND "open meeting"

This is a private recording of an open-to-the-public event.
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