The dark cloud named Sandusky haunted Penn State’s reputation this past year. In fact, people are still sensitive to the subject and question Penn State’s morals. Though Mr. Sandusky wasn’t a student at the school, he was still a member of that community who was held to a certain standard. A part of Penn State’s defense for Sandusky claimed that the scandal didn’t reflect the students or other faculty’s personal beliefs, and this scandal did not define the Penn State community.
As of this week Penn State is singing a similar tune when a their chapter of Chi Omega Sorority posted an offensive photo to Facebook that spread like wild fire through the internet. The entire chapter of the sorority poses in a picture all dressed in ponchos, sombreros and fake mustaches. This was meant to be a “Mexican” theme party, but the problem wasn’t what the girls were wearing it was the signs two of them were holding. The offensive signs read “I don’t cut grass, I smoke it” and “Will mow lawn for weed and beer.” These were obviously mocking some career choices by people in that culture. Penn State issues the statement “These costumes and this group do not represent fraternity and sorority life at Penn State, or the 95,000 students who attend our University.” What I find puzzling in this situation is how Penn State is handling another crisis within their organization. To start off, the statement is confusing considering the sorority is affiliated with the University therefore being a representative of the Chi Omega chapter at Penn State.
I also don’t see a call to action on behalf of Penn State. With a reputation already damaged, what would alumni and potential students think about how this behavior represents the University? The Penn State administrators need to put their priority into this – take control of the situation and not look the other way like the Sandusky case. I personally think that the University needs to kick the sorority out, they should no longer be allowed to affiliate with Penn State in any way. I wouldn’t usually suggest this aggressive tactic, but considering the dark cloud that still sits over the University; they need to make a statement that they do care about how their organization is represented.
How do you think Penn State should deal with this? Are they damaging their already frail reputation?
This guest blog was written by PRowl Public Relations staff member Katherine Carpenter.