Penn State

While some members of the Penn State community are wary of the university's return to in-person classes, some believe vaccines may make transition safer.
Jade Campos / WPSU

  

As more and more of the country gets vaccinated against coronavirus, many Penn Staters are feeling hopeful about the upcoming in-person school year. Others point to the current upswing in COVID cases and say it’s too soon.

Signage for a COVID-19 collection site in State College, Pa.
Min Xian / WPSU

 

In a livestream Friday, leaders at Penn State and from the surrounding community voiced concerns about the recent uptick in coronavirus cases and a new, more infectious variant found in State College.

State College Mayor Ron Filippelli said police have been responding to more gatherings recently and he sees a relaxation of precautions across the board.

A tented device to play back natural gas compressor noise in between two bluebird boxes in a field
Julian Avery / Penn State

A study by Penn State researchers found that songbirds nesting near the sound of natural gas compressors had fewer hatched eggs.  

Researchers set up 80 bird boxes at Penn State's Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center in Rock Springs in central Pennsylvania, to attract bluebirds and tree swallows. Half were in quiet areas, and half where researchers played audio recordings from a compressor station. They also outfitted the boxes with mini-cameras.

What they found was in some ways surprising.

A a technician sitting above a manhole next to a red cone installs a flow meter into the university's sewage network.
Michael Shreve / Penn State

A team of Penn State researchers is using wastewater testing to track the rise and fall of the COVID-19 virus in the State College area. WPSU's Anne Danahy spoke with Andrew Read, director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, about the project. Here's their conversation. 

Anne Danahy 

Andrew Read, thank you for talking with us.

Andrew Read 

Sure.

Anne Danahy 

The State College Police Department reported a total of four COVID-19 ordinance violations over State Patty's Day weekend. Violators of the ordinance can receive a fine up to $300.
Jade Campos / WPSU

State College’s annual partying holiday, State Patty’s Day, took place this past weekend. Crime rates surrounding the event have dipped in recent years. That trend continued this year despite the creation of new COVID-19 citations.

This State Patty’s weekend saw the lowest crime statistics in the past 11 years.

State College and Penn State police focused enforcement on dorms and apartments close to campus. The borough encouraged rental owners to keep an eye out for large gatherings throughout the weekend as well.

File photo of a mobile COVID-19 test site on Penn State University Park campus.
Min Xian / WPSU

Monday is the first day of in-person classes for Penn State students. To slow the spread of the virus, the university is requiring students to be re-tested after arriving back on campus for the semester. 

All students living on or off-campus who are registered for in-person classes are required to take the arrival test.

Students living in the State College area are also required to take the test even if their classes are fully remote.

Mary Church Terrell
douglassday.org

To celebrate Frederick Douglass’s birthday, Penn State will host an online “transcribe-a-thon” event this weekend to preserve the papers of an important Black woman activist. 

 

Jim Casey is a Douglass Day co-director and an assistant professor of African American Studies at Penn State. He said Douglass Day has evolved in the five years since it began.

Black Caucus UPUA Representative, Blake Toliver, addressing the Penn State Community about the recent zoom bombing.
Youtube

Members of the Penn State Black Caucus are calling for action after the group was “Zoom bombed” during a virtual involvement fair. On Sunday Penn State’s student government signed a resolution condemning the attack.

The Black Caucus said 51 unwanted users ambushed their Zoom event with racist and homophobic slurs, and some exposed themselves in a sexual manner. Black Caucus representative Blake Toliver said it was heartbreaking to many of his fellow classmates.

File photo of a mobile COVID-19 test site on Penn State University Park campus.
Min Xian / WPSU

Penn State students will return to in-person classes next Monday, as the country is bracing for a faster-spreading COVID-19 variant to become dominant.

 

The B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus -- also known as the U.K. variant -- has already been detected in more than 30 states, including Pennsylvania. The Centers for Disease Control expects it to become the dominant variant in March.

 

Penn State senior and pre-med student Avinash Saraiya, unpacks his suitcase as he moves into his new apartment in downtown State College.
Michael Miller

Worsening COVID-19 conditions at the end of last year led Penn State to move all spring semester classes online until Feb. 15. The university also discouraged all students – living both on and off campus – from returning to State College until then. But many students have already returned to Centre County. 

Avinash Saraiya is a pre-med student at Penn State. He moved in to his off-campus apartment in mid-January. He said being in Centre County makes him feel connected to the university even during the pandemic.

Penn State student Maliha Reza expected her first presidential election to be at a voting booth. Instead, she voted by mail. Reza's first presidential inauguration went similarly as she watched on TV at home instead of attending in person.
Maliha Reza

2020 was the first year many Penn State students could vote in the presidential election. Several politically active students shared their reactions to Wednesday’s inauguration.

 

Maliha Reza is an electrical engineering student and a member of the Penn State College Democrats. She remembers voting for Barack Obama during a mock election in elementary school. Reza expected her first time voting for a president would be similar.

Joshua Yospyn

Dr. Michael E. Mann is distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State and director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center. He is recognized around the world as a leading expert on climate change. His latest book is “The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet,” published by Hachette. WPSU’s Kristine Allen talked with Michael Mann about tactics used by climate change deniers, what needs to be done about the climate crisis, and why he's optimistic about tackling climate change.

 

 

People walking on the sidewalk in downtown State College
Min Xian / WPSU

Prompted by COVID-19, State College is looking into creating a health department, which would give the borough more control when responding to future pandemics and other public health issues.

Borough Manager Tom Fountaine said having a health department would let the borough be more agile when responding to situations like the significant population fluctuations that happened this year during the pandemic. State College saw most Penn State students leave in March then return in the fall.

Jennifer Granholm at a podium speaking
Carolyn Kaster / The Associated Press

As governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm helped lead efforts to bail out the auto industry, including offering government incentives to invest in electric vehicle technology. 

Now that President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Granholm to be secretary of Energy, the reaction from the academic and environmental sectors has been positive.

Susan Brantley, a distinguished professor of geosciences at Penn State, said Granholm has a track record when it comes to energy policies. 

Head and shoulder shot of Eric Barron
Gene J. Puskar / AP

Penn State President Eric Barron said he’s looking forward to environmental issues getting more attention — and possibly funding — under President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. 

He said environmental issues have taken a “back seat” at the national level in recent years — from the government removing some climate change terminology to cuts in funding. 

Junior Nate Paisley prepares to walk around a wintery State College.
Nate Paisley

 

Roughly 35,000 students came back to Penn State this fall for classes during the coronavirus pandemic. One out of every seven of those students contracted COVID-19 during the semester. Some Penn State students who tested positive shared their experiences with the virus and whether catching it made them more or less cautious. 

A person walks across an empty mall on Penn State main campus
Min Xian / WPSU

Citing “worsening virus conditions,” Penn State will delay the beginning of in-person classes for the spring 2021 semester until Feb. 15, the university announced Friday. 

Under the new plan, the semester will begin on Jan. 19 with remote instruction at all campus locations. In-person classes are slated to begin on Feb. 15, but Penn State says that “could change based on health and safety factors and guidance from the state.”

This year marks the 30th anniversary of when the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. WPSU's Anne Danahy talked about the landmark legislation and the challenges people with disabilities still face with Leah Zimmerman, executive director of Student Disability Resources at Penn State, and Michael Bérubé, Edwin Earle Sparks Professor of Literature. Zimmerman and Bérubé are co-chairs of Penn State’s new Disability Access Initiative working group.

Penn State student Kaitlyn Harris did an asymptomatic saliva test at a mobile testing site in August.
Min Xian / WPSU

  

Penn State is one of many universities that had students return for fall classes during the coronavirus pandemic. Classes at Penn State and many other universities have now moved to remote learning at the Thanksgiving break. WPSU took a look how different universities handled testing and their COVID-19 numbers relative to Penn State. 

Penn State president Eric Barron speaks during Wednesday's town hall.
Andrew Destin

Penn State president Eric Barron hosted a virtual town hall Wednesday to discuss racism, bias and community safety within the university. Two groups tasked with addressing these issues presented their recommendations about how Penn State should move forward.

The Select Presidential Commission on Racism, Bias and Community Safety and the Student Code of Conduct Task Force have drafted reports about changes they want to see at Penn State. The commission would like Penn State to make broad changes, such as promoting an inclusive and antiracist campus culture.

FILE - In this March 24, 2017, file photo, former Penn State president Graham Spanier walks from the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg, Pa.
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A federal appeals court is reinstating former Penn State President Graham Spanier’s conviction for child endangerment over his handling of a report that former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abused a child.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Tuesday that a lower-court judge had improperly vacated Spanier’s misdemeanor conviction for the 2001 incident.

Spanier’s defense attorney declined comment.

Penn State Old Main building
Min Xian / WPSU

As Penn State wraps up the in-person portion of the fall semester this week, 236 students university-wide have tested positive for COVID-19 from 15,600 departure tests conducted since Nov. 12, according to a release from the university Friday.

More than 5,500 results are still pending at University Park, where the majority of departure tests were administered. Penn State says results can take up to 48 hours or more and tests administered later in the week will be included in next Tuesday’s dashboard update.

Sam Davey / courtesy of Centre Film Festival

The Centre Film Festival is happening this weekend. It was held at the Rowland Theatre in Philipsburg last year. But this year, because of the pandemic, it’s coming to a living room near you.

 

“So we’re in our second year, and obviously we hope to continue in person next year,” says Pearl Gluck, who teaches film in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State. She’s co-founder of the Centre Film Festival. 

 

File photo of a mobile COVID-19 test site on Penn State University Park campus.
Min Xian / WPSU

Penn State is urging students to get tested for COVID-19 before the university transitions to fully remote instruction for the rest of the fall semester on November 20.

In a webinar Tuesday, the director of the university’s COVID-19 Operations Control Center, Kelly Wolgast, said free departure testing for all students is voluntary but highly recommended. More than 6,000 University Park students have already scheduled one.

Pat Mansell / Penn State

It's Halloween: time for chilling tales of local hauntings.  And in the interview below, Matthew Swayne delivers the goods. Swayne, originally from Tyrone, Pennsylvania,  is a science writer for Penn State's Institute for Computational Sciences.  He is also the author of "Haunted Valley: the Ghosts of Penn State."

TRANSCRIPT:

ALLEN: You wrote a book on hauntings at Penn State.  How did you get interested in that?

Broadcast Journalism student Anan Hussein was the only in-person student for Photojournalism with Professor Will Yurman on October 8, 2020. The rest of the class attended on Zoom. On some occasions, none of the class's 13 students were in person.
Will Yurman

 

In July, Penn State president Eric Barron announced that nearly half of the university’s classes this fall would have some in-person component. But since the start of the semester, attendance for some of those in-person classes has dropped substantially. 

 

Old Main, the Penn State administrations building on the University Park campus.
Min Xian / WPSU

Twice a week, Penn State updates a public website that lists the number of COVID-19 cases on its campuses, but one thing Penn State does not include is information about whether any of those students are hospitalized.

While Penn State offers general information about the number of COVID cases among students and employees, it does not include hospitalizations. Instead, a spokeswoman said, that would be “up to the hospital.”

This is a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, County of Allegheny Official Mail-in General Election Ballot in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020.
Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

 

Penn State senior Kamron Sarmadi is registered to vote in Virginia. Mail-in voting is the only viable option for his first presidential election.

 

“I don’t want to drive three hours back home. And, obviously, before all the big changes started coming through, USPS is like the one government-run thing that I really appreciate,” Sarmadi said.

 

A satellite election office for Centre County is located at Bryce Jordan Center on Penn State's University Park campus.
Kristine Allen / WPSU

Pennsylvania is a crucial battleground state in the 2020 election. And now, for the first time ever in a presidential election year, mail-in ballots are available to all registered voters in Pennsylvania, without any excuse. That means there is now actually a way for you to vote early in person.

Your polling place in won’t be open until Nov. 3.  But between now and Tuesday, there is a place you can go to vote early. 

Penn State coach Patrick Chambers reacts to a call late in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Rutgers, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, in State College, Pa.
Gary M. Baranec / AP Photo

Patrick Chambers has stepped down as Penn State’s men’s basketball coach. Athletic Director Sandy Barbour has accepted and confirmed Chambers’ resignation.

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