A Penn State Student Speaks About “That Night”
I received many moving responses to my last post about Penn State. Most responders shared my disappointment with the students who turned out en masse to protest Joe Paterno’s dismissal. As I predicted, the responses from Penn Staters were less supportive of my opinions. One email from a Penn State student particularly moved me and I have posted it here. Roger Kristof is a junior journalism major who has regular contact with the athletic department. Read what he has to say about that fraught night. I empathize with Roger and all the upstanding, confused students who got caught in the frenzy.
What a day! I went to the protest at Old Main directly after the board of trustees announcement in hopes that it would turn into something productive. It became clear fairly quickly that that wasn’t going to happen. We followed the crowd to Beaver Canyon and I was holding out some hope that integrity or respect or something like that would lead to cooler heads prevailing, but it wasn’t to be. I was okay with the WE ARE – PENN STATE chants, but I had to stay silent for the ones about Paterno or the Trustees – I just don’t know what side I’m on anymore. I guess I’m just on my school’s side, rather than some individual or group of individuals. We left as soon as the first light post went down – I felt absolutely sick seeing the news vans parked up the street and knowing how this was going to make my school look in the media today.
I’ve always known there were a lot of stupid assholes at this school. I see them every day at the gym or at the HUB and I wonder for a second how they got in here, and then I move on with my life. Unfortunately, our reputation as a school is judged on the actions of the worst of us, not the best of us, and that’s just a harsh reality. There were at least 15,000 kids out there and I would say 90% of them were either trying to be productive or just trying to watch, but that isn’t what gets played on the news reels.
Everyone here at Penn State is pissed off, and part of that is because we can barely keep track of what we’re supposed to be pissed off about anymore. I heard a few things yesterday that confirmed that this is going to get MUCH MUCH worse before it gets better. Thinking that only five people knew about this and covered it up was fairly naive-it looks like many more knew or at least suspected and failed to act.
I’m praying (why not, tried everything else) that this new rumor about Ssandusky running some kind of pedophile ring is false. The media has jumped on every rumor and speculation so far and turned it into their version of the truth, and it’s been a sickening process to watch unfold. All they’ve done is sensationalize everything having to do with Paterno and the administration while ignoring the real villain (Sandusky) and the real victims (the kids, who seem like a tragic footnote at this point). I cannot ever see myself working in journalism after this.
Please forward this to anyone wondering what it feels like at State at the moment, or wondering why the media is showing a bunch of assholes in PSU sweatshirts flipping a news van. Those kids are not Penn State, and hopefully sometime soon we will be able to separate the 90% of students who acted with integrity from the 10% who ruined it for everyone else. No one I know went to Old Main just to protest about Joe Paterno. It’s much more complicated than that.
We went to protest the handling of the situation by the administration, the gutless way Graham Spanier tried to save his job by throwing a local icon under the bus, the way the media has put the victims in the back seat to sell ad time, and the fact that something this monstrous could happen right under our noses and no one lifted a finger to stop it.
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