Penn State Altoona enduring tough year

Despite all the good at Penn State Altoona, the months between last April and now constitute a time that many at the campus and others in these environs would prefer to forget.

The unwanted incidents involving campus students during the months in question have reinforced not only the need for tougher stances and more vigilance by local university officials but also a more responsible, mature attitude by those preparing for productive careers for the rest of their lives.

The incidents have sullied the campus’ image.

No campus is pure in terms of unwanted incidents. However, the past 11 months have been particularly stressful for the PSU Altoona community, the campus having been thrust into an unwanted spotlight locally, statewide, nationally and even internationally.

The suicide of 18-year-old freshman Marquise Braham on March 14 is the big tragedy of this spate of avoidable, unwanted incidents.

Braham, a member of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, jumped to his death off a New York hotel. There’s suspicion that hazing by the fraternity caused him so much distress that he regarded death as his only “escape.”

Since Braham’s death, the campus has justifiably suspended the fraternity. Meanwhile, campus officials, if they haven’t already done so in recent days for other fraternities, sororities and organizations, should issue a strict reminder about what’s acceptable conduct and what’s unacceptable – and the penalties for failure to comply.

That would apply to incidents of the kind that triggered the campus’ 11 months of mounting concerns – last April’s party at the Nittany Pointe housing complex in Logan Township that resulted in charges against multiple students.

That was followed by another party at Nittany Pointe on Sept. 28 that township police likened to a riot – and which also resulted in multiple students being charged.

In a tough, correct response to those incidents, the township supervisors amended an ordinance giving the township authority over landlords and passed a rental inspection fee for off-campus housing.

But between the second “party” and Braham’s death, the campus in January became the center of local, state and national attention – and even received unwanted international notice – when 18-year-old campus industrial engineering student Vladislav Miftakhov, a citizen of Russia, was arrested for allegedly turning his Juniata apartment into a bomb-making “laboratory.”

He remains in prison awaiting a federal trial.

The current academic year is nearing its end, but soul-searching by students and campus officials alike in response to the happenings of the past 11 months must continue.

The campus is a wonderful place – truly, a crown jewel in Altoona and Blair County – with great opportunities.

Let’s hope some of the negative recent events don’t overshadow that.