Last week, I heard reports about Graham Spanier's decision not to report Jerry Sandusky's apparent sexual abuse to authorities because it wouldn't be "humane." That night, when I arrived home after a long day of work, I looked up to see Spanier's signature on my diploma. As my tweet says, I was mortified. The degree that I poured my soul into is now stained by a man who safeguarded an alleged pervert.
You can imagine my elation in discovering this, can't you?
As reports of Sandusky's trial unfold, I cringe at the testimony the victims provided in court. Hearing the gruesome details is like picking a scab from the wound that has scarred the entire lives and well-being of those sexually abused by him. I think I speak for Penn State as a community when I say I'd give anything to heal the pain, hurt, and trauma they've experienced because of this man and the Penn State staff that concealed his actions. Sure, he's innocent until proven guilty, and we'll likely find out his fate in the coming days. But 52 counts of sexual abuse? That number speaks for itself.
I have no choice but to pose a very simple, blunt question to Spanier: What the hell were you thinking?
I tried to imagine the thought process of our former University president. This is how it went in my head:
Jerry Sandusky, the Assistant Coach of our holy, untouchable football team, may have been involved in sexual actions involving children in The Second Mile? Well, that can't be right. The alumni will be pissed. We won't tell anyone... That's the humane thing to do.
(I intentionally omitted any thoughts about the victims, because clearly, he didn't consider them whatsoever.)
Penn Staters, whether through THON or any other charitable event, pledge much of themselves to the health and happiness of youth. Children have bountiful traits that we, as adults, admire: innocence, curiosity, optimism, perseverance. As someone heavily involved in THON, it blows my mind that anyone in the Penn State community would look past these adolescent qualities and permanently damage the essence of what makes children who they are as human beings.
As a student, I admired Spanier. He had a presence on Penn State's campus that I felt during no other college tour. I always wanted to test the rumored theory that he responded to every single email within 24 hours. As an RA, I sat through three rounds of his convocation address to freshmen. He was accessible, which we, as students, appreciated. He also appeared to be moral in his undertakings as president, but little did we know what was taking place behind the closed doors of his Old Main office.
When it comes to something permanently hanging on my wall, I prefer the signature of a man who is ethically sound, not one who covers the sickening actions of an accused child molester. For the sake of those who suffered, I wish I could white-out his name and take back the firm handshake we exchanged on the stage of the College of Communications graduation.
More than anything, I wish I could erase the past for the victims. Spanier's name may always tarnish my educational pride and joy, but may it be a reminder to not only myself, but to other Penn State graduates, that his lack of action only enables us to do something infinitely more positive, palpable, and life-changing for those who suffered.
A Penn Stater article featured a professor of sociology and crime, law, and justice who stated, "For every 1,000 people, you're lucky if there are two or three whistleblowers." Let's try to change that. Look at Spanier's signature as a reminder of the action they didn't take to help those abused, and may that reminder empower us to be the whistleblowers, and the ones who will do anything we can to continue striving for that health and happiness we always want for the kids.
Sandusky, Spanier, and the other leaders who did nothing for the victims: you are not Penn State. The graduates, on the other hand: we're here to do what's right, and we are Penn State.
Follow Catherine Seraphin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CJSeraphin