‘Mounting Nittany’ sex column on hold as Penn State deals with Sandusky case

Kristina Helfer’s “Mounting Nittany” sex column used to run every Thursday in Penn State’s Daily Collegian — typical fare: “Let’s talk sex, hugs and handjobs” — but it’s been MIA for several weeks now. The last “Mounting” was published Nov. 3; Jerry Sandusky was arrested Nov. 5. Helfer didn’t respond to my email, so I called the Collegian newsroom. A man who identified himself as “a campus editor” linked the column’s disappearance to the Sandusky scandal. He transferred me to the managing editor, and she said she couldn’t discuss this because only the editor-in-chief is allowed to speak to the media. (When did college newsrooms become so bureaucratic?) I’ll post top editor Lexi Belculfine’s email when it arrives.

UPDATE: Belculfine writes:

Initially, I wouldn’t call the absence of Mounting Nittany a decision. During the week of Monday, Nov. 7, the paper — and opinions page — evolved as the story did, often by the second.

Mounting Nittany would have ran in the Nov. 10, 2011 issue of The Daily Collegian. This was the edition that chronicled the removal of former Penn State President Graham Spanier and former football coach Joe Paterno. We ran three opinons pages that day — as opposed to our typical one. One was a full page editorial and two were filled with letters to the editor, reflecting the influx of community input the paper was receiving.

In the week that followed, we offered Kristina Helfer the opportunity to write a sex column on the scandal or sexual assault, but she decided that based on the tone of the previous columns that it would not be “respectful to those who have been affected by sexual assault” to write the column that week. Instead, we ran another columnist’s piece on the importance of not being a passive bystander.

Looking forward, based on the current situation and mood at Penn State, we have decided to remove the column for the time being.

> Critic: “What’s disturbing is how lax Helfer’s attitude is toward sex”



  1. If this decision-making process occurred the way it’s described here, it’s pretty dumb. So these were somehow appropriate before the Sandusky scandal, but not now?

    The Duquesne column is excellent, particularly the following portion: (note the quotes, Jim)…

    “Helfer’s more recent “Mounting Nittany” columns are a little better than the first, but are still lacking on one necessary major change: addressing sex as an at least somewhat private act. Some things are not meant for small talk or casual conversation with strangers.”

    I’ve seen quite a few of these sexpert columns, and they are often bad. They are usually pretty juvenile, which is the general pattern of anyone who feels the need to trumpet this subject in such a basic fashion.

    I think it is possible to discuss the subject in a productive, non-juvenile fashion. The Duquesne columnist sort of accomplishes that. Sadly, most journalists are apparently incapable of approaching that standard. I’d cite a few real-life examples, but they lose their effectiveness without some of the offensive language that might be problematic here.

  2. I had been wondering whether Mounting Nittany was going to rear its terrible head once again, thanks for tracking down those responsible for their hackneyed and bloated excuses. I ain’t mad at TDC’s editors for jumping on an opportunity to rid themselves of it as a weekly feature, I just wish they could be more forthright about why they gave it the axe.

  3. J.E. Murray said:

    What’s really disturbing is the top editor writing “would have ran …”

  4. Really disturbing, but not really surprising. I think many college papers stopped being about the writing a while ago.

    Over at the rogue blog at the ACES site, someone is trumpeting a package as some of the best work the paper has done. The typos and misspellings are prominent and easy to find.