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One Man And One Scandal Does Not Represent Penn State (Opinion)

Penn State Nittany Lion
Laurie Cataldo

In the fall of 2003, I took my first steps onto Penn State’s University Park campus as a freshman. It was the greatest four years of my life…football games, friends, and incredible experiences. In May of 2007, I graduated with Bachelor’s degrees in Journalism and Sociology, with a certificate in American Studies…and for the rest of my life I will be a Nittany Lion.

I was a board member of the Blue and White Society – the student affiliation of the Penn State Alumni Association. I was a newspaper reporter for Penn State’s Daily Collegian. I was a sociology teaching assistant. I was a talk show host and news producer for the student-run ComRadio. And I spent 46 hours not sitting or sleeping as a dancer in Penn State’s Dance Marathon(THON), a fundraiser for the Four Diamonds fund at Hershey Medical Center. Two days: No Sitting, No Sleeping, No Kidding, to raise money for kids with cancer. All of that is my history at Penn State.

Today, none of that matters. Today people hear that I went to Penn State and are calling me a supporter of pedophilia.

I cannot imagine the atmosphere in “Happy Valley” today. I imagine it is dark, tense, and sad. I am 300 miles away, and I am devastated. I have my own thoughts on whether or not Joe Paterno should retire, whether he did enough or not, and whether Penn State Football should forfeit the rest of this season. I will not necessarily share those thoughts here.

But I can tell you that the atrocities (allegedly) done at the hands of Jerry Sandusky do not represent Penn State University. His actions are deplorable. The cover-up reportedly perpetrated by Tim Curley and Gary Schultz in the name of football is disgraceful. The fact that President Spanier blindly offered the University’s support of these men was not done with the University’s best interest in mind. Most importantly, if Sandusky is found guilty, there is no punishment harsh enough for his crimes.

Despite all of this, I support my SCHOOL. I obviously do not support sexual assault or abuse of any kind, ESPECIALLY of children. I do not support Jerry Sandusky. I firmly believe Graham Spanier should resign, Tim Curley’s contract should be voided, and Gary Schultz should lose his pension. Mike McQueary, the then-grad assistant, now- assistant coach/recruiting coordinator, the man who witnessed Sandusky attacking a child and never went to police, should be fired. Setting aside emotion though, none of us know the truth of what happened. No one knows for certain what McQueary saw, what Joe Paterno was told (by McQueary OR administrators), or what Spanier knew.

The students, however, and the countless professors, administrators, employees, and alumni, should not be crucified because of this scandal. This year’s football players should not be punished. This year’s student body should not be punished. They did NOTHING wrong. To say supporting Penn State means supporting pedophilia is ignorant. My school is SO MUCH MORE than these men.

I understand how some people think supporting the football team means supporting Sandusky, or for some, Paterno…but Sandusky retired as a coach more than 10 years ago, and JoePa has already said he will retire at the end of this season (so as to not leave this current crop of players hanging). Supporting Penn State football this Saturday should ONLY be seen as a sign of support for the victims, their families, and the hundreds of thousands of Penn Staters that are devastated by this scandal.

I can only ask people to not make judgments about all Penn State, and Penn Staters, based on this one horrific situation. I have had to defend myself and my school to friends, family, and complete strangers, and it seems as though I will have to continue defending myself until the end of time. I will simply finish with this, which has been making the rounds of Penn Staters on Facebook:

“We are… sad. We are… grieving with the families and the victims. We are… brokenhearted. We are… trying to make sense of things. We are… confused. We are… over 94,000 students strong. We are… ranked among the top 15 public universities. We are… the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. We are… over 8,500 top-ranked faculty. We are… hard working student athletes in many sports with NO connection to former events. We are… more than 2 university officials and 2 athletic department members. We are… more than this scandal. WE ARE Penn State, and we have ALWAYS been more than just a football team.”

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