Learning from Penn State

By Alexandra Huss, JWI Intern

As a college student, it’s impossible to ignore the constant attention drawn to the Penn State scandal. If you were to only watch television or read the newspaper, you would assume that all agree that anyone involved in enabling the child abuse to continue is guilty beyond measure, and morally repugnant as well.

All, that is, except for Penn State students. I have many friends at Penn State and it is from them that I first learned of the occurrence, and have seen their desire for the media to “leave them be.” Be it an “angry” status on Facebook at “Joepa’s unfair treatment” or a changed profile picture to the image of this blindly beloved coach, many Penn State students’ affections seem to lie with the coach not the victims.

In speaking with a friend from Penn State, however, I learned that my friend and other Penn State students are concerned about what they perceive as an unfair image of the school in the media. “We are all embarrassed by the rioters, and I think the rioters are realizing that they are embarrassed themselves,” my friend said. She added that the new president sends out regular emails assuring that this can never happen again, and that he will do whatever it takes to make sure students are safe. Students themselves are taking action as well; “Student organizations are collecting money, even at football games, and selling blue ribbons to stop child abuse.”

I hope that this horrific instance serves as a wakeup call for colleges and for systems that allow for the cover up of abuse. In fact, in 1991, Mr. Sandusky almost came to my school, the University of Maryland, to coach. This, of course, leads me to wonder, could it have been my school? Could it be your school, or your child’s school?  There is now word of an incident at Syracuse University. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated occurrence.

It is through awareness and sensitivity that events such as these can be stopped in their tracks. I hope that these efforts at Penn State do more than lead to a new awareness; they must be the first steps towards lasting change.

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