Dear Old State
by Devin Weakland | Penn State University
I thought I’d heard it all until this past weekend.
I was at a holiday party, relaxing after a delicious meal, when the Penn State scandal became the topic of discussion. Actually, I would hardly call it a discussion, because words were flying around in the forms of offensive jokes and comments. Nothing was discussed. I thought the scandal buzz was finally subsiding—that the problem was finally being traced to its root source, Jerry Sandusky. Even if this wasn’t the situation, I thought I was calloused enough by past derogatory comments, headlines, and news broadcasts to brush off the jokes and move on with the evening. However, although I was disappointed in the words themselves, I was more frustrated that no one considered that it might be inappropriate to make such comments, especially in front of a current Penn State student who lived through the media circus, witnessed the student riot, and saw her beloved university at its lowest point to date.
The actions of a few individuals that occurred over a decade’s time exploded into a global media frenzy that ultimately led to the unthinkable: Graham Spanier leaving his presidency, and Joe Paterno being fired from his head football coaching position. Two of Penn State’s most iconic leaders were gone, and students were looking for answers. Some took to the streets to gain some sense of unity. Others gathered on the steps of Old Main to voice opinions on recent happenings. A select group of students organized a candlelight vigil in honor of the alleged victims. Some students simply went about their regular routines, trying to revive a feeling of normalcy at University Park. Despite the mixed reactions, one thing was certain: Happy Valley was filled with devastation and disbelief.
Several news vans with large satellites camped along College Avenue, while reporters swarmed campus. I couldn’t walk to class without meandering around the vans or dodging a reporter. I couldn’t turn on the television or log on to any social media site without seeing the Penn State Nittany Lion logo beside some “Penn State sex scandal” version of a headline with Sandusky’s name nowhere to be seen. It made me sick. I could hardly pay attention in class because I knew the world’s eyes were on my school, watching our every move. I sat in lecture halls terrified of what might come out next, even though I couldn’t imagine anything worse. Everything was so fragile, and everyone was on edge. The distraction was immense.
Before the incident, Penn State was recognized worldwide as a reputable university that held integrity, honor, and success in the highest regard. Penn State still holds these priorities, but, for some, the name is tainted with skepticism since the scandal broke. Fortunately, for most, Penn State is still the same university it has been for 157 years: a leading research institution, the creator of the largest student-run philanthropic organization in the world (THON), the home of a top honors education, a university with a strong sense of pride and tradition that bonds the Penn State community together.
Those that understand what it means to be a Penn Stater are standing behind Dear Old State and are eager to be a part of the university. According to a recent email I received from Jim Thomas, the dean of the Smeal College of Business at Penn State, undergraduate applications are up 4 percent across Penn State, and company registrations for Penn State Career Days are up 11 percent from last year. Alumni are showing their support through new scholarships and career opportunities for students. These applicants, recruiters, and alumni “get it.” They understand that Penn State is bigger than the actions of a few individuals. They know that Penn State students who finished the semester with high GPAs despite all the distractions are the type of people they want to work for their companies. They know the Penn State community will come out of this scandal stronger than ever.
All I’m asking is to consider the bigger picture—to think about everyone affected by this scandal before making a remark. Penn State is my life. It’s given me lifelong memories with longtime friends and is preparing me for my future career. I can’t imagine anywhere better to spend the best four years of my life. For the glory.
For information about the recent action taken to address the scandal, see President Rodney Erickson’s website.Devin is a junior at Penn State majoring in print journalism and marketing. Her past writing experiences include reporting for the Daily Collegian, writing for Penn State’s Undergraduate Admissions site and covering concerts for a local music blog. In her spare time, Devin enjoys traveling abroad, finding new indie-rock bands to listen to and spending too much money at Starbucks.