With donors to the university threatening to withdraw financial support following the recent Virginia Tech costume controversy, more than 1,100 Penn State students plan to show their support by wearing the school's colors -- maroon and orange -- today.
Photos showing two Penn State students dressed as victims of April's Virginia Tech shooting surfaced last Thursday, nearly a week after Virginia Tech's athletic department thanked Penn State for the students' outpouring of sympathy.
Multiple online groups have since been formed to express renewed support for the victims of April's tragedy.
Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers, in a Dec. 7 e-mail to several colleagues, called for "a group of students (maybe student government leaders) to 'spontaneously' put together a Facebook site for Penn Staters to go and show their support for Virginia Tech."
Powers also wrote in the e-mail about how many people have posted online about Penn State's responsibility.
"We are getting hammered by the Virginia television station, and it's only a matter of time before it takes on a bigger life," she wrote in the e-mail.
Powers said she has fielded concerns from members of the community regarding how Penn State could show support. But she said she only encouraged a united support by students.
"If students made the group, then it was by their own doing," she said yesterday.
In the e-mail, Powers suggested "Penn Staters who care about Virginia Tech" as a possible group name. Days later, Jay Chamberlin, University Park Undergraduate Association's (UPUA) internal development committee chairman, created a Facebook group named "Penn State STILL supports Virginia Tech."
At a UPUA meeting last night, both UPUA President Hillary Lewis and UPUA Media Director Sean Meloy defended the authenticity of the group.
"The e-mails were in an advisory fashion, and the administration is not telling us what to do," Meloy said.
Lewis said the group Chamberlin created is unaffiliated with UPUA.
Conversations on the UPUA's Executive Listserv led to the group Chamberlin created, which aims to apologize for the actions of a few students, he said.
"Students from Virginia Tech have sent me Facebook messages and e-mails saying that they appreciate the gesture," he said.
Other students have responded using Facebook also. Stephen Rohrbach (senior-economics) said he received suggestions from Virginia Tech students via e-mail as to how Penn State students might be able to show their support. He organized a Facebook event titled "Maroon and Orange Day," which urges students to dress in maroon and orange today.
"Two students did something pretty disgusting. Maybe if there's at least 50 students wearing Virginia Tech shirts [today], we can show our Penn State and Virginia Tech pride," Rohrbach said.
Still, some university donors have expressed their anger with the costumes and have pledged to withdraw support.
One of these donors is Virginia resident Sandy Schlaudecker, whose husband, Jim, is a Penn State graduate, and whose son attends Virginia Tech and experienced the tragedy. Schlaudecker's neighbor was killed in the shooting.
She said, through tears, that her son, Adam, was a victim "in that his whole school was shut down."
Schlaudecker has vowed to remove monetary support of Penn State and has encouraged Proctor & Gamble, which doubled the family's gifts, to do the same. Schlaudecker would not disclose how much money she has donated.
"I will wait until I get my little solicitation in the mail and send it back empty," Schlaudecker said. "I would donate, but there's going to have to be something that's very, very public that I'm going to hear about."
Bernard Seneway, Class of 1972, wrote that he "will not support a university that condones this type of behavior" in a letter to the editor to The Daily Collegian.
"If these students are attending any PSU campus in September 2008, the Penn Star Electronics endowed scholarship will be closed," he also wrote in the letter.
-- Collegian Staff Writer Lauren Boyer contributed to this report.