State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

It's 2040. Do You Know Where Your Town Is?

on July 26, 2010 7:19 AM

Good morning, State College. It's July 26, 2040, and here's a look at your top local news.

With an expected high of 98 degrees, today will mark the 39th consecutive day of heat advisories in Centre County. But there's still no consensus about what's causing the record heat wave.

To try to resolve the climate dispute, meteorologist Joe Bastardi will roll out of retirement this afternoon to wrestle his primary rival, Penn State professor emeritus Michael Mann, at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. 

Mann, recently dubbed the most dangerous climate scientist in the world by Fox News, is the crowd favorite over at the Penn State Faculty Senate. Betting on wrestling matches has become a lucrative income source for the academic body, which was stripped of its university funding last year.

The funding cut was among dozens of austerity measures imposed by Penn State, which has seen its state support decline 98 percent over the past 15 years. The university now receives $2,003.47 in state money each year.

To maintain revenue and balance its budgets, Penn State has been forced to increase enrollment of New Jerseyans. The university now charges the highest non-resident tuition rates in the country, and students from the Garden State now make up 53 percent of the undergraduate population at University Park.

In other news, State College today will see the opening of its 33rd tanning salon. Ten of those salons are on campus -- one in each residence-hall area -- and pay a special tanning fee to the university.

That revenue has been especially helpful as the Penn State administration pays down the university's construction-related debt, now estimated at $6 billion -- up from the $1 billion range in 2010. 

About $75 million of that debt stems from the Fraser Centre project in downtown State College, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this week.

You may recall that the project struggled to get off the ground in 2010, before Penn State took it over. Once the university gained control, however, construction began rapidly in late 2011.

Penn State scrambled the earlier plans for Fraser Centre, which had included condominiums and retail space. In their place, the university has made Fraser Centre into the headquarters of a never-ending capital campaign.

The campaign, known in 2010 as "For the Future," became "For-ever" by 2011. Fraser Centre has become an effective home base for the ever-more-critical fundraising efforts, helping the university to lubricate potential donors in exquisite social lounges and expansive bars and restaurants.

In fact, confidential sources tell, the Borough Council has quietly, informally halted enforcement of noise and public-urination ordinances around Fraser Centre.

The concept, executed this week in conjunction with Old Main, is to help alumni connect with fond memories of their alma mater, to induce comfort and make them more likely to give back, these sources said.

Sources in Old Main called the approach "groundbreaking" in its innovation, and said it would help solidify Penn State's standing as the most popular university in the world.

In a similar vein, WPSU radio has offered to rebroadcast a 2009 episode of "This American Life" -- the episode that chronicles the Penn State drinking culture. Old Main, however, has nixed that idea in private, suggesting that the broadcast may deliver way more reality than necessary.

Still, the broadcast has become a staple of the substance-abuse curriculum at State High. The program has so jolted some local teenagers, they have formed an anti-drinking task force within the school's student government.

The task force this week will meet in Webster's Bookstore Cafe, in a former bar-and-nightclub building on the 100 block of South Pugh Street. Some Webster's regulars said they revel in the irony.

"I used to pound hurricanes and grind like a champ in this joint," said Seymour Greene, 58, sipping a chai latte. "Now it's become central command for the young teetotalers. 

"Can't say I mind, though," Greene went on.

"Keeps 'em out of the tanning beds."

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