By: Danae Taylor, Event Planning Committee Chair
President Eric Barron filled about half of Robb Hall during his Open Student Forum on November 10, addressing concerns from the Commonwealth, undergraduate and graduate students.
The forum was an intimate space where students were honest with Barron about their concerns. Barron handled the crowd with humility and humor and wasn’t afraid to say that he didn’t have all of the answers. He even told a student that he would get back to her via email if she emailed him an exact question.
Although there were many questions regarding how to improve diversity relations on campus, Barron did not have any exact answers for the subject. However, here are a few issues with resolutions that Penn Staters can expect to see during Barron’s tenure.
Sure, we have immense support from our proud alumni and low default rates, but that doesn’t always help students who come from a single-income household or students who spend more than four years pursuing their undergraduate degrees.
So, how do we move forward?
Well, President Barron proposed what he calls a “Penn State Promise”, where the University would provide for unmet need if made aware of students who are working multiple jobs and taking lighter course loads in order to pay for their education. Students would have the choice to enroll in summer classes for free so that they won’t have to sacrifice taking required classes while working during the spring and fall semesters.
President Barron took a unique approach with his goal to increase student development by proposing the implementation of entrepreneurs to Penn State faculty. Barron described entrepreneurs as people who have “been there and done that.”
Barron proposed having Intellectual Property (IP) Fairs where students and faculty can put their ideas out there and receive start-up money as a reward. Since we have such a supportive alumni base, Barron spoke about even finding alumni who are willing to invest in a student’s start-up.
One key point Barron touched on during this segment was passion. He recounted a story where a governor told him that institutions should measure their success based on the rate that graduates secure jobs upon completion of their degree and what their starting salaries are. To counter that, Barron said if that were true then there would be no point in being interested in education or fine arts majors since they don’t make that much money.
Barron is in tune with how students deal with the conflict of following their passion versus choosing a major in a field that makes a lot of money and proposed an option where students would “have their eyes wide open” when choosing a college to apply to (Business, Communications, Liberal Arts, etc.) Students will be able to see the average salary of people working in that field, unemployment rates and how Penn State students fare.
Barron bluntly expressed his feelings on sexual assault stating, “People who commit rape should be in jail.”
Thankfully, Barron said there is a task force that has been assembled with “people who have intimate knowledge on this issue” who are here to provide more support for survivors and minimize the rate of sexual assault.
“This is something on everyone’s minds and something we should all work on to fix,” Barron said.
Barron said he isn’t interested in just throwing ideas out there and that students should see “tangible things come into place” within a year. These plans sound promising, but we’ll how these changes are made.
Photo Image: Camille Stefani, The Daily Collegian