The past 13 days have brought revelations to the Penn State community that no student or graduate of our University ever saw coming. It has been an emotional roller coaster with more downs than ups. There are way too many aspects of this story to reflect on all of them, and by now you know the basic facts, so I will not bore you with those.
Of course, we all know who the real victims are in this story. There are 8 that have had their say in the Grand Jury Report, but I do believe there will be more to come forward. I hope it will not be many more, but at this point, nothing would surprise me.
This whole scandal has been a blatant reminder of just how strong and powerful the national media becomes in events such as these. For the first few days, the only name we seemed to be hearing was Joe Paterno's. For someone unfamiliar with the background information just tuning in to ESPN, CNN, or FOX last week, it would have been easy for them to think that Paterno was the accused child molester. Paterno was the first to be relieved of his duties as Penn State head coach, regardless of the fact that he has not yet had his say or been able to defend himself. But Joe Paterno is the name that everybody knows. McQueary, Shultz, Spanier, and Curley, though key players who arguably ignored bigger responsibilities in this matter, are hardly house-hold names, especially outside of the Penn State community. So the media grabs on to who everybody knows.
Don't get me wrong, I am not defending Joe's actions or in-actions at this point. But I do think it is easy for outsiders looking in to say what they would have done in a similar situation. We don't know what was going on in his head and what facts he knew or did not know, or what he was told or not told by his superiors. He is no more at fault than any of the other players in this twisted game, but he is the scapegoat in the truest sense of the definition. Until the case is brought to trial, I will withhold judgement.
I do not agree with the students who chose to riot following the announcement that Paterno had been fired last Wednesday night. However, they do not represent our University as a whole. I have also read accounts by students who claimed that reporters on the scene were trying to provoke the rioters even more, saying things like "This isn't a riot! Show me a riot!" Knowing how the media works, I would not be surprised if this was true. A similar report came out yesterday morning from students who were invited to a taping of the Anderson Cooper Show this past Monday. According to this report, the students were encouraged to show emotion and outrage, including crying and yelling. From what it sounds like, only those who were doing so were allowed to speak, and the production assistants would "constantly motion over at the students to get angrier." This image of an out-of-control student body who supports child abuse is one being fabricated by the media to make their tale more interesting. Did anyone see any media coverage on the thousands of students who were present at a candle-light vigil last Friday night in honor of the victims?
The Penn State image has been tarnished due to one man's horrific decision, and a few more men who made very poor decisions. However, our school is not defined by our football team, contrary to what many would like to believe. Aside from the school's reputable academics, we are also home to the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, THON. THON is a 48-hour dance marathon that last year alone raised over $7.8 million for pediatric cancer. In 2010, there was an all-time high interest in THON, with close to 20,000 student volunteers.
So when you hear us continue to chant, "We Are Penn State", it is not in support of Jerry Sandusky, or even Joe Paterno, or the student rioters who did nothing more than cause an embarrassing scene. We are holding on to the good that our beloved school still represents. We know that our football program will never be viewed in the light that it once was. We are not clearing Joe's name of any wrong-doing or being naive enough to believe that he has a completely clean conscious. We know that his legacy, at the very least, will have a scuff mark on it that will never be erased. But those people do not represent the Penn State way, success with honor, the way the rest of us choose to live our lives. WE are Penn State.