Press Release from Nittany Valley Water Coalition:
Today was a dark day for town-gown relationships when Penn State called the Ferguson Township Police to evict community members who have been staging a 124-day long occupation at the Toll Brothers proposed development of the Cottages on Whitehall Road and Blue Course Drive.
The Nittany Valley Water Coalition is committed to protecting the wells that supply two-thirds of State College’s water.
These wells are beside the proposed development site and are connected to the site by subsurface water flow and an intermittent stream.
Although we are saddened that Penn State chose to evict us by sending the local police force, we are happy for the land’s short term future.
We have learned that our camp will be sown with winter wheat which will not be harvested until next June! The power of soil to act as a natural filter leading to recharging of the wells with clean water is well known.
So, while we are sad to have been denied our First Amendment rights, we are happy with farming. We hope that Penn State, a Land Grant school, will realize that the future of this site is better as farming and not as hundreds of luxury cottages.
At 9 am this morning, Penn State University ordered the forcible eviction of peaceful protestors on land we have been occupying to protect our water supply from development.
Zach Moore of Penn State arrived at the site in a Ferguson Township police car to oversee the removal of all persons and property of the Nittany Valley Water Coalition (NVWC).
The NVWC has occupied the proposed development site on Whitehall Road near Blue Course Drive to protect it from development for four months now as we negotiate with Penn State and the developer for an alternative location for this development on PSU-owned land.
Ferguson Township police maintained a presence at the site all day and asked anyone who arrived at the site to leave by order of Penn State.
Following is the text of a notice printed on plain white paper and hand-delivered Friday, Sept. 29 to David Stone, Nittany Valley Water Coalition activist, at the Whitehall Road site, by Zack Moore, PSU Vice President of Government and Community Relations.
PENN STATE UNIVERSITY NOTICE AGAINST TRESPASS
This property is owned by the Pennsylvania State University.
However, it is not open to the public.
You are hereby notified that you are not allowed, licensed or privileged to place any personal property on this property.
Should you fail to adhere to this Notice, any personal property you have placed on this property will be subject to removal by the University.
THIS IS YOUR FINAL NOTICE.
There are a lot of strange things about this document.
It’s not on any letterhead: not Penn State, not a municipal police department, not a county sheriff, nothing.
It’s unsigned and unattributed. Not signed by Zack Moore, nor by PSU VP for Finance and Business David Gray, nor by PSU President Eric Barron, nor by PSU Board of Trustees Chairman Mark Dambly. No way to know who wrote it.
It’s not dated.
It doesn’t cite any federal, state or local law or authority to support the assertions contained within it. Nor does it cite any internal Penn State administrative directives or policies.
Most intriguingly, it walks back from the demands and threats stated and/or implied the prior day’s email thread. There is no reference to Penn State’s demand that the protestors themselves leave the site or risk arrest and imprisonment. The notice only asks that protestors remove their stuff, which consists of some folding chairs, coolers, canopies and signs, or risk having their stuff taken away by parties unidentified.
In the first two sentences, it makes an attempt to separate the notion of Penn State as a public university from the notion of Penn State’s land as open to the public.
Further, it carefully avoids asserting that protestors have no “right” to be on the site with their personal property, by stating only that the protestors are not “allowed, licensed or privileged” to have their stuff with them.
Nittany Valley Water Coalition activists don’t think Penn State has a legal leg to stand on.
And, based on the peculiar form of this alleged “notice against trespass,” it appears Penn State executives know the same thing.
They’re just hoping to bluff their way through and intimidate the water coalition into compliance based on innuendo and Penn State’s powerful reputation, even though Penn State has no legitimate authority to impose its will in this case.
BERNIE HOFFNAR’S RESPONSE
In response to the Penn State notice, water coalition activist Bernie Hoffnar spent a few minutes yesterday on his own computer, with his own printer, to produce a similar unsigned, undated, non-letterhead, legally-unsupported document, which he then handed to David Stone last night as a rebuttal:
PENN STATE UNIVERSITY NOTICE TO CANCEL THE NOTICE AGAINST TRESPASS
This property is owned by the Pennsylvania State University and the State of Pennsylvania and its citizens. The property is open to the public as it has been in the past.
You are hereby notified that you are allowed and privileged to keep any personal property on this property that you wish.
A recent flare-up of the entitlement complex suffered by Zack Moore, Charima Young and other Penn State corporate executives is prompting an emergency meeting of Nittany Valley Water Coalition and its supporters, on Friday, September 29 at 5 p.m. at Foxdale’s board room.
Essentially, the dispute boils down to the same key issue we keep running into in this painful running battle between corporate exploitation and community sovereignty.
Is Penn State a public institution, such that Penn State land is public land, the notion of “trespass” upon it is incoherent, and citizens have a Constitutional right to protest thereupon?
Or is Penn State a private institution, such that Penn State land is private land and corporate executives have the right to invoke the police power of the state to forcibly evict and/or arrest protesting citizens as trespassers?
Are community residents subject to corporate Penn State “Administrative Directives” on such issues as authorized free speech sites?
Or are community residents – non-university, along with university employees and students – free to speak whenever and wherever they choose, because they are independent human beings with inherent rights beyond the control of the corporate university?
See, for reference, AD51, which purports to restrict all citizens’ rights to free speech to 12 small sites from among Penn State’s thousands of acres of campus and non-campus land, and AD57.
Email thread below.
It’s an exchange between Zack Moore, PSU Vice President of Government and Community Relations, Charima Young, PSU Director of Local Government and Community Relations, and David Hughes, Penn State Professor of Entomology and one of the water coalition’s most vocal and visible leaders, about Penn State’s desire for water coalition activists to pack up the Whitehall Road protest site, go home, sit down, and shut up.
Sept. 27, 8:27 p.m. – Charima Young to David Hughes
I just wanted to follow up on our previous conversations about the removal of items from the Penn State Whitehall Road Property. On August 21st we provided notification that all items should be removed, which is in accordance with the No Trespassing signs. This is our FINAL no trespassing notification. It is our hope that members of the Nittany Valley Water Coalition will comply.
As mentioned before, we will continue to be open to dialogue during this process.
Sept. 27, 9:50 p.m. – David Hughes to Charima Young
I very much doubt whether the coalition will change their stance. I will of course mention this to them.
Given that you say it is FINAL, can you tell me what PSU intends? Will you send the police? I know that the coalition will ask this question.
Speaking now as a professor at PSU, I suggest that is not a good move.
Sept. 28, 8:40 a.m. – Charima Young to David Hughes
I would advise the coalition members to consider complying with the law and respecting the no trespassing signs that have been posted. How the University responds will be dependent on how the coalition responds.
We have always tried to work with the coalition members in a gracious and respectful manner. We hope that they will do the same and respect the University’s rights as land owners of the Whitehall Road property.
Sept. 28, 10:22 a.m. – David Hughes to Charima Young
You ducked the question. Let’s assume the coalition decides not to move. Will you send the police to forcefully evict?
I just need a clear answer on this to bring to the coalition in our meeting tomorrow evening.
Yes or no.
Just to help us (Penn State) manage the community relations here, I can assure you there are people in the coalition who are willing to be arrested.
Another question I received since last night is why is this happening now? We are just about to write to Charles Elliot as his 60 days period of (Toll Brothers) research on the West College Avenue site comes to a close. Why do you want to evict now?
Sept. 28 – Zack Moore to David Hughes:
We’ve been asking you to do this for more than a month. Charima sent her email on August 21st. This is not a recent request.
From the university’s perspective, there is very clear law and policy on this.
If we do not enforce it, it makes it more difficult to enforce policies in the future.
As a professor, what would you have us do?
Poor, poor Zack Moore, and his cowardly overlords standing in the shadows behind him and Charima Young.
They seem so frustrated.
“What can be done!?” they cry…
What can be done about the orderly, non-violent behavior of competent adults and their children, acting for over 100 days as if they have freedom of speech and freedom of association, sitting and standing by the side of the road on putatively public land – land owned by Pennsylvania’s only land grant university, which enjoys massive direct and indirect public funding, subsidies, and tax-exemption as an IRS-registered nonprofit organization – informing passersby about Penn State’s shameful attempts to threaten public water supplies for profit?
I’m not a professor at Penn State.
But here’s my answer to Zack Moore, as to what I would have Penn State do.
From the community’s perspective, there is very clear law and policy on the Constitutional principles of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, and Penn State is a public institution, not a private institution.
So not only do our Constitutional rights supersede your “Administrative Directives,” but as a public institution, your administrative directives should be fully aligned with Constitutional principles, because you are a government entity.
In a battle between your unconstitutional administrative policies and our Constitutional rights, our rights will win, even if it takes us years to vindicate those rights in protracted court battles.
So in this particular case, Zack, I’d have you void the sales contract with Toll Brothers, request that Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors zone the land back to Rural Agricultural, and apologize to the community at large for your abusive, disrespectful, exploitative behavior over the last 14 years, since you initiated the upzoning that led to this horrible mess to begin with, back in November 2003.
If you did that, the protestors would pack up their shit and go home, because this particular battle between the corporation and the community would be over at last.
Toll Brothers executives and engineering consultants are continuing to assess the feasibility of an alternative student housing development site – on land also owned by Penn State – near the intersection of West College Ave. and Blue Course Drive (across from the Waffle Shop).
Penn State executives continue to be oddly cagey in their communications with NVWC representatives about the possible land swap.
Water coalition leaders continue to be concerned about the possibility that Charles Elliott of Toll Brothers and John Sepp of PennTerra Engineering align with the water coalition in supporting a land swap to protect public water supplies and give Toll Brothers a positive entrance to the State College market (which would be great!), only to run into obstructive Penn State executives and trustees who refuse to do the land swap and might even sue Toll Brothers for breach of contract in an attempt to force Toll Brothers to build on the public watershed.
That would be a super-strange outcome to this long, long water and farmland conservation campaign.
From Deb Nardone, Executive Director of ClearWater Conservancy:
It’s with great joy and SO much appreciation that I send you this email. Thanks to generous community support, ClearWater Conservancy has reached our fundraising goal of $2.75 million for the Slab Cabin Run Initiative.
We are finalizing the legal agreement with the Meyer and Everhart families and all 300 acres will be permanently conserved by the end of September.
I am so humbled by the engaged and passionate support of our great community. Together, we had the foresight to proactively conserve an important gem in the heart of a growing town while protecting our drinking water, improving our trout streams and preserving this gorgeous landscape. This achievement means so much for our community, the next generation, and all those who love this place. It would have never happened without you.
You’ll likely hear more about this in the upcoming days and weeks as we make this news public. But starting today, you can pass by the beautiful landscape along University Drive and know that you played a vital role in its conservation.
To celebrate this significant achievement, please join us on Saturday, October 7thfor a fun and family-friendly evening at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in State College. Guests can take in a gorgeous view of the property we’ve all worked so hard to conserve, listen to great music, enjoy food and drink from our local partners and celebrate what our great community can do together. This event is free, but we do appreciate your online RSVP by October 1.
I wanted you to be among the first to hear this really exciting news. Thank you for playing an important part in this impactful project. A thousand thanks for all you do!
The Nittany Valley Water Coalition has occupied this site for 100 days as of this Saturdayto protest building on this farmland. Please join us for a potluck and live music to honor this day and get an update on status of the fight to protect our watershed. PLEASE BRING A CHAIR TO SIT ON, your own plate and cutlery, and a dish to share. These potlucks are a LOT of fun. There is parking at the church next door or in Highpoint Park across the street from the site. Join us!