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Letter: Penn State Board Chair Urged to Condemn Alum's Letter to Jonathan Sutherland

on October 09, 2019 4:30 AM

The following is an open letter from the Jeff Ballou ’90 for Penn State Trustee campaign calling on university Board of Trustees Chairman Mark Dambly to condemn the letter sent by a Penn State alumnus to Nittany Lion football player Jonathan Sutherland.

Dear Chairman Dambly,

I write this open letter to you and the trustees in hopes of an immediate response by the board.

Fred Lewis Pattee, principal namesake of Penn State’s University Park-based library, wrote in 1901 as part of the university alma mater, “May no act of ours bring shame To one heart that loves thy name.” I wonder if he had alumnus David Petersen in mind? His disgusting letter to current Penn State football player Jonathan Sutherland about cutting his dreadlocks and not having tattoos is not simply a wistful missive from an older alum longing for a clean cut approach. His letter is ignorant of the culture and free expression each student of every generation brings to Penn State.

Mr. Petersen, and alums like him who have taken to social media lately, confused tradition with exclusion, impede access, do not build responsible leadership in students or alumni, and certainly do not encourage a sense of community which I saw on campus last weekend during homecoming. Moreover, he has a history of repugnant letters to the editor. Succinctly put, Mr. Petersen does not believe that every Lion counts and should be denounced for his words by our trustees, administration and alumni association.

Alumnus Wally Triplett and his Penn State players stood up to the virulent scourge of racism in 1946 when he and other African-American players were told that they couldn’t take the field in Miami at the end of their season. The team stood together and in one voice said, “No. We play all, or we play none.” That game was cancelled. They went on to play, together under segregation’s threat in the 1948 Cotton Bowl. I challenge Mr. Petersen and others who have written similar statements to demonstrate that they embrace the Triplett team ethos—that every Lion counts.

Mr. Chairman, I ask you and the trustees to go on record and condemn this letter in no uncertain terms and call on all alumni to do the same. Also to strongly support and praise Mr. Sutherland and his teammates who sacrifice on and off the field every week. Our pillar values and the students learning them must be protected. We must show the world that WE are Penn State!

For the Glory,

Jeff Ballou ‘90

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