Penn State

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

Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News and other news organizations across Pennsylvania. Sign up for our free weekly newsletter.

Penn State Athletics Director Sandy Barbour in a face mask at the beginning of an online press conference Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020.
Anne Danahy / WPSU

Penn State Athletics is planning for the football team to play in an empty stadium this fall, but the department does have a seating plan for about 23,000 people if the state changes the rules limiting crowd sizes.

Even with those plans, Athletic Director Sandy Barbour left open the possibility that the football team won’t play at all. 

“The virus will determine whether we play or not,” Barbour said Thursday during a press conference.

"Keep Your Distance" sign with lion's paw print
Min Xian / WPSU

 

A newly formed group called the Coalition for a Just University at Penn State hosted an online rally Wednesday, questioning the university’s plans for an in-person fall semester in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group wants the university to provide COVID-19 testing to all faculty, students and staff, publicly say staff can work remotely and give faculty control over whether they teach in-person. They're also calling for a guarantee that all full-time faculty and staff will keep their jobs and benefits in 2020-21.

A line outside Doggie's Pub on Pugh Street in State College July 11, 2020.
Emily Reddy / WPSU

 

State College Borough Council voted Tuesday to approve an ordinance requiring mask-wearing in public and limiting most gatherings to 10 people in an effort to keep the COVID-19 pandemic in check after Penn State's fall semester starts.

Someone who violates the ordinance can face a $300 fine. 

Before the vote, Boalsburg’s Carla Myers said she hoped council would pass the ordinance ahead of students’ return to State College later this month.

Sophomore Joshua Kouassi sits outside a restaurant
Joshua Kouassi

 

While many Penn State students are set to return to the University Park campus for the fall semester in less than a month, some are worried about what school will look like amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

Penn State President Eric Barron speaking
Anne Danahy / WPSU

 

Penn State hosted a virtual town hall on its COVID-19 plans for the fall semester Thursday, including testing for students, faculty and staff amid the pandemic. 

  

Beaver Stadium at Penn State's University Park campus in July 2020.
Min Xian / WPSU

Eight Penn State athletes have tested positive for COVID-19, and results are pending on another 66, according to the athletics department.

In a statement, Athletics said as of July 24, it has conducted a total of 466 COVID-19 tests.

University athletes have been going back to campus for summer training. At the same time, the university is moving ahead with plans to return to on-campus classes in the fall.  

 

The BlackAtPennState logo.
BlackAtPennState

 

Since June 27, an Instagram account called “BlackAtPennState” has shared anonymous stories of racism from Black Penn State students, graduates and staff. WPSU intern Andrew Destin talked with the Instagram account creator, a Black student at Penn State who has chosen to keep his identity confidential out of concern for his safety.  

 

Penn State announced Monday that both the Child Care Center at Hort Woods and the Bennett Family Childcare Center at University Park will reopen on Aug. 19.
Min Xian / WPSU

Penn State announced Monday that both the Child Care Center at Hort Woods and the Bennett Family Childcare Center at University Park will reopen on Aug. 19, less than one week before the fall semester is scheduled to begin. 

In a virtual town hall Monday, university Provost Nick Jones said both centers will reopen with a comparatively limited capacity and added safety precautions. But parents who attended the meeting on Zoom expressed concern and questioned why the details haven’t been worked out yet.

On May 25th, a police officer killed George Floyd while arresting him by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Videos of Floyd’s killing have led to weeks of protests across the country and calls for police reform.

Penn State professors Eleanor Brown and Ben Jones recently wrote an OpEd that ran in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Philadelphia Inquirer about barriers to police reform and State College’s own police killing of a Black man with schizophrenia, Osaze Osagie. 

Outside of Nittany Lion Inn
Min Xian / WPSU

There is at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 in someone living on Penn State’s University Park campus, according to Wednesday’s report from the state Department of Health.

A department spokesman confirmed that between one and four individuals in the 16802 zip code have tested positive for the coronavirus. The specific number is redacted when there are fewer than five cases in a zip code.

 

Attendees of the die-in protest lay on the Old Main lawn for 14 minutes, symbolizing the 140,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S.
Min Xian / WPSU

The Coalition of Graduate Employees at Penn State hosted a “die-in” protest Monday, demanding the university revise its plan to bring students back on campus in the fall. 

Speaking in front of Old Main, Maggie Hernandez, an organizer with the coalition, said it’s unsafe for Penn State to plan for in-person classes in the fall. 

“If they do value and support us, they will listen to our demands, prioritize our safety and switch to fully online instruction in the fall,” Hernandez said. 

Penn State says about half the courses will be either fully in-person or a combination of in-person and remote learning in the fall.
Min Xian / WPSU

With nearly all classes finalized for the fall semester, Penn State says about half the courses will be either fully in-person or a combination of in-person and remote learning. Most of these classes are going to be small sections that serve upper level students, university president Eric Barron told the Board of Trustees Friday.

This month, the show begins with the concert overture “In Autumn” by Edvard Grieg, from the Penn State Philharmonic, conducted by Timothy Farrand.

Terry Engelder, professor emeritus of geosciences at Penn State, holding a large rock.
John Beale / Penn State

In 2007, Terry Engelder, a professor of geosciences at Penn State, calculated that trillions of cubic feet of natural gas could be recovered from the Marcellus Shale.

 

The now-retired geologist is credited with opening the door to Marcellus Shale development. Looking back, he says the industry did make mistakes when it came to tapping into that reserve. Like not doing baseline water chemistry testing and keeping chemicals used in fracking a secret.

 

Penn State announced Monday that both the Child Care Center at Hort Woods and the Bennett Family Childcare Center at University Park will reopen on Aug. 19.
Min Xian / WPSU

A group of Penn State graduate students will hold a “die-in” July 20 to protest the university administration’s decision to return to in-person classes in the fall, saying the decision risks lives to COVID-19.

“University administration is tacitly stating that there is an acceptable amount of death for a return to in-person instruction. We disagree,” said Bailey Campbell, one of the die-in’s organizers, in a news release.

In anticipation of Penn State students returning to campus in the fall, the Interfraternity Council has voted to suspend all social activities indefinitely.
Emily Reddy / WPSU

In anticipation of Penn State students returning to campus in the fall, the university’s Interfraternity Council has voted to suspend all social activities indefinitely. 

The Interfraternity Council, or IFC, voted unanimously last week for a “social moratorium,” putting a pause on parties for its 37 fraternity chapters on Penn State campuses. 

Penn State President Eric Barron said in a message to the university community that the school will support its international students against the potentially disastrous impact of a newly proposed ICE rule.
Min Xian / WPSU

Jessica Kim said she’s been losing sleep. Kim is an international student from Indonesia and studies supply chain at Penn State. She has been worrying about the newly proposed ICE policy, which says international students will have to leave the U.S. if they don’t take in-person classes in the fall.

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

  Penn State men’s basketball coach Patrick Chambers has apologized to former player Rasir Bolton via Twitter for a racially insensitive remark about a noose from the 2018-19 basketball season.  

First Penn State Student Dies From COVID-19

Jul 2, 2020
Penn State's Old Main administrative building.
Min Xian / WPSU

 

A Penn State student has died from respiratory failure due to COVID-19.

Penn State said in a press release that it learned of the Tuesday death of 21-year-old Juan Garcia, a student in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, through friends and family. He is the first known Penn State student to die from coronavirus.

Courtney Witmer posed with her daughter, Arya, in their State College home in February. Witmer is glad Penn State will begin to offer four weeks of paid parental leave to its staff.
Min Xian / WPSU

Courtney Witmer and her husband are first time parents. They welcomed their firstborn, Arya, at the end of last year. Witmer, a social media marketing manager at Penn State’s World Campus, said being new parents is exciting, but challenging.

“We knew that those first few weeks are really the hardest,” Witmer said. “You're navigating a whole new world of lack of sleep and this little being that can't tell you what it needs. And its only form of communication is crying, and your brain is literally wired to light on fire when it cries. And so, you're trying so hard to adapt.”

Old Main, the administration building, on Penn State's University Park campus
Min Xian / WPSU

In an online town hall on Monday, Penn State President Eric Barron talked with the co-chairs of the university’s new Select Presidential Commission on Racism, Bias and Community Safety about their plans for the commission. 

The university also announced the creation of scholarships to promote equity and diversity. Barron said Penn State will match up to $10 million in donations toward diversity and equity scholarships, and fund memorial scholarships named after George Floyd and Osaze Osagie.

Pre-K-12 schools in Pennsylvania were closed for the last three months of the school year that just ended, due to coronavirus concerns. Gov. Tom Wolf told schools to move to a digital learning model.

We talked about the effects of the shutdown on students with Ed Fuller, an associate professor in the College of Education at Penn State.   

TRANSCRIPT:

Emily Reddy:

Junior Jon Flatley at the Nittany Lion Shrine.
Jon Flatley

 

 

    

Penn State leaders hosted a virtual town hall for parents and students on Monday to clarify any concerns about the university’s "Back to State" plan for returning to school in the fall. Some students say their questions remain unanswered.

Penn State president Eric Barron
Ralph Wilson / AP Photo

Penn State plans to convert the Nittany Lion Inn into an isolation residence for students who have or have been exposed to COVID-19, and football fans should not expect to fill a crowded stadium in the fall even if fall sports resume.

Those were some of the topics Penn State President Eric Barron covered during a virtual town hall meeting for faculty and staff Monday.

The Nittany Lion Inn conversion will mean 79 layoffs. But, he said, most employees who the university had previously furloughed will be brought back in August.

 

A Penn State team known as Data For Action is asking Centre County residents to complete a survey about COVID-19 that's part of a larger project aimed at measuring the virus’s health, economic and social impacts on the county.

 

Meg Small, with the Social Science Research Institute, said having local data will mean better understanding the impact of the coronavirus to help decide how to respond.

 

Selena Ortiz and her colleagues surveyed 906 municipalities in Pennsylvania in May and published a report on how local officials handled the coronavirus.
Photo provided

The state government has taken a leading role in deciding Pennsylvania’s response to the coronavirus. But when it comes to enforcing protocols and communicating with residents, local municipalities have been providing much of the support. 

Penn State announced Monday that both the Child Care Center at Hort Woods and the Bennett Family Childcare Center at University Park will reopen on Aug. 19.
Min Xian / WPSU

Penn State announced Monday it will move a virtual town hall on the return to in-person instruction for the fall semester because it fell on Juneteenth.

Old Main, the administration building, on Penn State's University Park campus
Min Xian / WPSU

 

As Penn State gets ready to return to on-campus classes this fall, many faculty don’t think in-person teaching will be safe and are calling on the university for more information about how its plans will work.

 

Pages