JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Guest post from an angry Penn State student

Received this e-mail earlier today from one of my readers: “Can I post something to your blog with a pseudonym? I’m at Penn State, and need to get something out there.”

The answer was, of course you can. And she did. Don’t agree with everything she writes, but I admire the passion and intensity and integrity she put into it. I’m guessing you will, too …

Let’s get something straight here: this is a story about lies, abuse, and cover-ups. It is a story about three men and (thus far) nine boys. This is a story about Jerry Sandusky, Gary Schultz, and Tim Curley.

This is not a story about Joe Paterno.

I’m writing on behalf of many angry Penn State students. Contrary to numerous media reports, in which we’ve been portrayed as drunken immature children who can’t grasp the basics of the American legal system, the students of Penn State explicitly understand what’s gone on. It’s the media who seems to have lost the trail.

To review: Jerry Sandusky, former Penn State defensive coordinator, was indicted on 40 counts of abuse—some felonies. In 2002, grad student Mike McQueary witnessed such an event (the details of which are available in the Grand Jury Presentment) and alerted Joe Paterno, Penn State’s famed head coach.

For those of you screaming that Joe should have gone directly to the police, I agree, though I’d remind you he had a chain of command to follow. I’d also point you to the fact that he did not directly witness such abuse and, as such, would have been presenting hearsay to the police.

Paterno, instead, turned to Gary Schultz, responsible for the University Police. For those of you unaware, the Penn State University Police Service is a fully operational police force, capable of investigating and arresting. Nothing was ever done to follow up.

No one here is denying that Joe could have done more; he himself has admitted the same. The students of Penn State are angry that the coverage has barely mentioned Sandusky, Curley, Schultz, or, most appallingly, the victims. Students are angry that these lesser names have largely fallen through the cracks, despite being far more important players in this tale.  We’re angry that a man many of us still love and respect could not leave his house yesterday without being harassed by the media, and we’re angry that that same man, who has raised millions of dollars for the University was fired via a phone call. We’re angry that John Surma, Vice-President of Penn State’s Board of Trustees, at first refused to acknowledge Paterno’s contributions to the school, then admitted the Board had fired him without knowing the (in Surma’s words) “actual facts and circumstances.”

Tonight’s actions, including the tipping of a news van and the knocking down of light poles, were the manifestation of that anger boiling out. It was not dignified, mature, or well-thought out; tonight, we failed to act with integrity or with honor. Shouts of “F— the media” and the ensuing violence failed to contradict the reports depicting the University’s students as mindless Joe Paterno supporters, unable to see the facts of the case engulfing Penn State.

But look at it from our perspective. We’ve been depicted as drunks and morons, our words utterly stifled by a larger picture to paint. The riot tonight, during which we screamed for Joe Paterno and during which time a smaller group of students gathered in front of the Paterno house to show support, was reported as a celebration, as if this was what so many of us had wanted. Our two best public voices, The Daily Collegian and Onward State, have been swept aside, save for photos and videos unavailable from any other source. Sue Paterno, the same funny candid voice who stepped forward only a few weeks account to tell us all about guarding the Lion Shrine and who has been likened to the student body’s grandma, cried on her front lawn tonight while telling all gathered that she and Joe “loved them all”. And most importantly, in the haze of big names and scandal, the ruined lives of nine boys have been thrown by the wayside.

We feel as if we’ve been shoe-horned into an agenda, and we’re not happy about which agenda it was. We wanted a voice in this, a real voice. We didn’t want to be manipulated into making someone else’s point. We wanted a fair shot for all involved, and we wanted the true culprits dragged through the mud. We didn’t ask to be misrepresented, and we certainly didn’t ask to be shamed.

If you want someone to be angry at, be angry at Sandusky. Be angry at Schultz. Be angry at Curley. Be angry at Mike McQueary, who did have the authority to report to the police and who was the eye witness who could have stopped the abuse.