Penn State senior Anna Thomas shares her changed point of view about "the scandal that has rocked my school, and in a sense part of my world..."
I am writing to you today after just leaving a class where the ideas, thoughts, and opinions shared regarding the scandal that has rocked my school, and in a sense part of my world, has literally changed my whole outlook on the current situation.
A professor of mine encouraged us as students to examine this issue on three levels. The personal level, structural level, and finally the ideological level. In doing this, we are able to take facts that have been presented to us, and explore the reasonings behind them and ultimately how we as students and faculty members move forward and process what has happened over the past years.
When I came to Penn State I was made aware of the overwhelming school pride, the love for football, and of course the respect and admiration for the god like figure of Joe Paterno. I became apart of a structure and system that preached integrity, but also broadcasted to us that college football and pride in the program and Joe Pa was of great importance and meaning. I have attended almost every home football game, loved Joe Pa and what he stood for, and truly could not imagine my college experience and life here to be any different.
Then this tragedy occurred. I was forced to realize and accept that the people in power questioned some very moral obligations and reasoning, in order for students like me to have our Penn State football culture, and for this school to exist in this system that it essentially created for itself, a system that withstood the test of time.
What happened to those boys is incomprehensible. Reading that 23 page report from the grand jury made me sick. However, I wasn't blind to what the media was focusing on. I read just about every article written, have been watching the news, ESPN, you name it, and can't help but notice that the focus has not been on the victims, but moreso on Joe Paterno and his coaching staff and the leaders of this school. Unfortunately, this focus continues to perpetuate a system that I live in where Joe Pa's reputation, honor, and coaching career was more important than showing reverence, respect, and sorrow for the victims of this tragedy. My student body went into riots and protests over the prospect of our beloved Joe Paterno no longer coaching here at school. Why didn't our
structure, and more importantly our school leaders, encourage us to focus on what was important for a moment, and to come together as a student body to mourn the horrible events that have occurred and show support for our victims? Shouldn't that have come before a riot for football?
I love my school so much and still have pride in the Penn State name. This institution and the people that are apart of it have contributed to the person I am today in too many ways to name. I love the football culture and how much school pride we have. But I also am aware that there IS a line. There's a moment when you need to examine what the "team," our society and our structure that we live in, stands for and supports. Are we going to be complacent to a structure that places more importance on a football program than the innocence of children? The own men in power were faced with a situation where doing the right thing would have potentially meant sacrificing a strong and influential system that was in place with college football. Individuals encountered a pressure that can't be described where they felt like going through a hierarchy of power was the first step in addressing a basic human tragedy, due to the fact that so much was at stake.
We need to sit back and examine the different structures and systems that we as humans and individuals are a part of. We need to figure out when we sacrifice the reputation and benefits of a system due to our moral obligation to protect human life. This isn't just about Penn State, this is about America as well and what we as a country deem important and admirable in our universities and colleges...