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'We aren't Penn State' chants draw confusion, prompt investigation

January 26, 2018
MSU marching band director shares a laugh with the rest of band before counting off during Spartan Marching Band practice on Sep. 19, 2017 at Munn Field. Thornton's high-energy kept constant for the duration of the practice.
MSU marching band director shares a laugh with the rest of band before counting off during Spartan Marching Band practice on Sep. 19, 2017 at Munn Field. Thornton's high-energy kept constant for the duration of the practice. —
Photo by Anntaninna Biondo | The State News

As a part of the Big Ten's "Super Saturday," the MSU hockey team was in for a treat — traveling to Madison Square Garden to face off against conference rival Minnesota.

But within the confines of the world-renowned stadium, the MSU pep band was overheard chanting a simple phrase: "We are not Penn State."

MSU alumna Michele Doney, director of Student Academic Consulting Center and Immersion Programs Treasurer for Baruch College, overheard the chants at the game.

She said she was close enough to the pep band to not only hear their music, but hear what they were saying. Her partner confirmed hearing it as well.

And with the recent ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar's sentencing ongoing, Doney had her concerns.

“Why on earth would they be doing that?" Doney said. "Because my thought was it was some kind of comment about the Nassar thing, and that just seemed like a bizarre thing to be doing."

James Forger, dean of the Department of Music, investigated the incident.

He has discussed this matter with Simon Holoweiko, assistant director of bands and associate director of the Spartan Marching Band, and David Thornton, associate director of bands and director of the Spartan Marching Band. Holoweiko accompanied the band to Madison Square Garden.

The chant goes back to a very popular techno pop song called "Kernkraft 400" by Zombie Nation. This song is often just referred to as Zombie Nation. Zombie Nation is the unofficial anthem for Penn State.

It's typically played at football and basketball games in Happy Valley. And when the song arrives at a certain part, everyone in the arena typically shouts, “We Are Penn State."

“It was their audio DJ playing this tune, which I guess is played, as I understand it, in many arenas, and these folks carried on with their tradition and said, 'We are not Penn State,'" Forger said.

Forger understands Dosey’s concerns, but he claims this was not the intention of the chant.

"This chant had absolutely no connection with any of the issues that are related to the horrific sexual assaults that took place at either Penn State or at MSU," Forger said.

Dosey said she felt much better about the incident and that Forger eased her concerns. She said she understands why they took part in this cheer, but she thinks this tradition has reached a point where it is no longer appropriate. 

“It is too late now to use that, that has been ruined,” Dosey said.  “It is not an innocent little taunting spirit generating thing anymore. Now, anything that has got MSU and Penn State together is just going to make people think of all of these sexual assaults.”

Kelsea Seifert, secondary education senior, plays trombone for pep band and was at the game in New York. She chanted these controversial words along with other band members.

She said sometimes the student section will join in at games as well, and it is all in innocent fun. 

“We were all horrified by how we were perceived and how we were construed,” Seifert said. “And I know all of us won’t partake in it in the future.”"

Thornton made the band aware of how their chant was perceived. For now, actions are being taken by Thornton to remove the song from any playlists for future games.

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