It's a shame...
I attended PSU for both undergraduate and medical studies and can sadly say I witnessed much of the behavior reported in this piece. However, I was part of the student body who did not engage in underage drinking, a proud member of those who thought Penn State's students were absurd in reveling in their total lack of self-control. Football was passion of mine (from childhood my dad taught me about the game and the history of the school's great football tradition) but even more important to me was not stumbling around drunk. Many of the students (including myself and my friends), despite the widely held erroneous views to the contrary held by most Pennsylvanians' and per this episode, most of the country, did not engage in any of this ridiculous self-degrading behavior. We were honors students, we were science and liberal arts majors with GPAs and medical and graduate school applications to worry about. Some of us, including myself, also worked during the school year. We had fun, tailgated responsibly, had a great time, and amazingly did not urinate on people's lawns.
It is important that this piece was done though it certainly is no where near as riveting as many other "This American Life" episodes. Perhaps Penn State can see yet again that they spend so much time focusing on and managing those party-driven members of the student body that the rest of the world, when they visit Happy Valley, can evidently see nothing else either. No where in this episode was a segment about the students who have the best time of their lives who don't engage in this type of behavior and the reasons they choose to live differently than their counterparts. It might have been of some interest to hear from them. From experience I can say that PSU spends more time chasing the approval of the students who attend their institution with the primary intention of partying for four to six years than caring about those who work hard seeking to improve themselves and the lives of their families with an education.
I am not saying that we and students who "follow the rules" were/are perfect. I personally look back at some of the things I did in college and ask myself what in the world was I thinking, but I never glorified it or took pride in recurrent poor decision-making even if none of them involved alcohol. Teenagers and young adults always will make some bad decisions including those involving alcohol, but the degree to which this behavior is idolized at Penn State is ridiculous and distracts from its primary academic mission.
By the grace of God, my friends and I graduated with good grades, obtained honors degrees, proceeded to graduate school or medical school, got married, make excellent money and live successful lives as proud PSU grads because of, imagine this....our education and GPA numbers, not the numbers registered on our college breathalyzer tests.
Here's to the students who do the right thing, are able to have social lives, graduate with character and still move on to be good PSU alum. We are, like everyone else in this episode, Penn State.