Penn State: A Former Student’s Perspective

I have always been proud of being a Penn State alumna. Judging by those I have waited on and tended bar to during the past 11 years as a State College resident, it is an even bigger deal to thousands of other alumni.

I was saddened that grown adults could even let something like this go unreported and to also continue for the many years, and possibly more. As a criminology major, I was even more perplexed. I knew what harm was done to these children, having been involved in a incidence myself, but a child? I can testify to the mental anguish one goes through when sexually abused. Rape is a scary thing to experience. As an adult, I feel that I am able to weather things a bit more differently than a child. A child has no idea what is going, why it is occurring, nor has the slightest clue what to do about it. Children see adults as authority figures, and are more likely to go along with the adult’s wishes, and are often terrified to say anything about it. They often blame themselves for what just occurred. As an adult, I knew I had options to heal myself and get over the pain, and now have a family of my own- something many sexually abused women fail to be successful at. I am not saying I am a successful wife and mom, as only time can tell, but everyone is alive and breathing at this point in time. I also know from my education that children do not fare as well as I did, so it brings tears to my eyes to know that innocent lives have been ruined. No amount of criminal charges, money, and blame will ever get that back. Not to mention the fact that these children are much more likely to go on and sexually abuse children themselves. A vicious cycle and something else I learned as a student at Penn State.

As for my fellow alumni, Penn State is a massive part of their identity. They live Penn State and each football season They come back to relive and rehash stories of their glory times. They are so wrapped up in the tradition of Penn State that I can not hardly imagine the pain they felt when the news broke of Jerry Sandusky, Joe Pa, and many of the other respected staff of the Pennsylvania State University. If I was only disappointed, then what did my fellow alumni feel? I saw tears streaming down the faces on grown men and women when Joe Pa was “fired” for being inactive and not doing more. Joe Paterno is a good man, so they cannot begin to comprehend why he was let go, while I cannot figure out why this good man did not go straight to the police. As far as everyone can tell, this is the only blemish in Joe Pa’s entire life, so what happened? I feel awful for the alumni before me since the Penn State has been a way of life for generations, I can understand why there has been such a strong, emotional tie. This is what they wait for in life- to tailgate with friends and family and have a good time.

As for the current students, I am somewhat ashamed. I understand everyone was upset by the release of Joe Pa, but that does not mean that the entire student body riots and acts like a bunch of uneducated heathens. It only makes the university look worse. These actions were broadcasted across an angry nation who already despises Penn State for attempting a cover up in the first place. Since students are generally over the age of 18, the age of accountability and adulthood, I wish they would please act like it. These students involved in the rioting not only makes the school look bad, but all students, past and present. The candle light vigil was nice, but was the riot absolutely necessary? I feel bad for the students acting respectfully who will hear comments about the scandal as if they were part of it. I was out of town when the news broke, in Maine, and people made nasty comments to me on more than a few occasions when they saw I was wearing Penn State gear. Other than those directly involved, no one knew about these poor children, nor did we know about the massive investigation that was going on.

I hope that future would-be students are not deterred in making Penn State their college in any way as a result of the recent news. Penn State is still a great place for co-eds to receive their education. The school has many great programs, the campus is very nice, the surroundings are beautiful(if you can get past the smell or manure most mornings), and you will befriend people that you will know your entire life. I do feel bad that new students will not get to experience Penn State pre-scandal, but the era of Joe Pa had to come to an end. Granted, this is not the exit everyone wanted or expected, yet it was getting close to his time. After all, the man is in his 80’s and has spent nearly 50 years as a coach at Penn State. I plead to future students to look past this. Everyone has faults, some more than others, but the school has a lot to offer. We do not have the world’s largest alumni base for nothing!

I would also like to say something to the outsiders of Penn State. I know as a criminology graduate what is expected of me when it come to certain crimes as a civilian. No one can really know exactly what happened unless we witnessed it with their own eyes. We also should not place blame on those when we do not have the facts. We live in a system of innocent until proven guilty, yet we all jump on the bandwagon, myself included, and demand that drastic measures take place. More than the victim’s lives were ruined. Trashing someone else’s life because we feel they did not adequately handle the situation is up to the courts, not us. The coaches and other staff who have lost their jobs over this not only bring shame on themselves, but their families as well. Their spouses, children, and grandchildren should not have to suffer because we feel we need to right a wrong. Sandusky may have molested those children but he still has a wife and 6 adopted children of his own. They will have to live this for their entire lives, knowing that a man they loved was capable of doing such evil.

We forget that Sandusky was being investigated by State College police, according to the Grand Jury report, but the Centre County District Attorney decided not to pursue legal action and closed the case in 1998. At this point, what more could have been done? It did go to authorities, and the head authority decided to throw out the case. At the time, it did not matter if it was going to be reported or not, the DA already made up his mind after reviewing findings. This is the man who should be responsible after Sandusky, not Joe Pa, Mike McQueary, and even the janitor who also witnessed the crime. The irony of it all is that the DA at the time, Ray Gricar mysteriously disappeared in early 2005 and was never heard from again. In the time frame her was the DA, nothing would have come from the accusations. We are left with more questions than answers, and none of us were present at the time to know for sure.

Let us focus on the victims and those being victimized by our own friends, family, and other loved ones. We can be outraged by the occurrences at PSU, but let’s put our anger to good use. While we are focused on the blame game, children in our own neighborhoods are being abused and need our help now. Let the events that happened at Penn State be a reminder that we need to be the voice of these children, no matter who is involved. They need our help and constantly bashing one another is not going to give them any justice or bring any protection.

My heart goes out to the victims and victims everywhere else. I am sorry that adults take advantage of youth and ruin innocent lives. I promise to take action immediately, no matter who the perpetrator is.

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