I don’t bring it up often, but I’m a Penn State alumnus – I’ve spent eight years (from ‘02 through ‘10) in State College, first as a student, student representative, then staff and have thus acquired more than a fair understanding of politics at the university. The time I’ve spent there has become an important part of my life.
While a committee chair in Undergraduate Student Government and a student representative to the University Faculty Senate, I authored a formal request for the university to support a project known as the Penn State Wiki “to contain articles relating to peer advising, class descriptions, student organizations, and other topics as deemed important.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was a degree of animosity towards the proposal among members of Penn State’s central administration. It was clear from an early state that it was going to be an uphill battle—at one point administrators refused meetings, despite clear student interest in the project. Then–Provost, now–President Rodney Erickson ultimately made a decision that “there would be no wiki.” Full correspondence and press coverage is archived on the Internet Archive.
I’m proud of the meetings I organized around the project and the level of media attention garnered. A few months later I was on my way to Wikimania 2006 where I would start a career in open video.
The formal request passed with overwhelming majority votes not just through Undergraduate Student Government (USG) but also through the Council of Commonwealth Student Governments; although USG was replaced by another organization support for the Penn State Wiki remains the official position of the undergraduate student body.
I remain hopeful that the project can begin in earnest again as Penn State starts on the process of reflection on how a modern university should operate.