Jocelyn Brumbaugh: A Student's Perspective One Year After Sandusky Scandal First Breaks
Nov. 5, 2011. It was a beautiful fall day in Times Square, New York City. The air was crisp and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Shoppers and commuters shuffled through the sidewalks while others enjoyed their morning coffee at patio picnic tables. CNN headlines constantly scrolled across the news ticker in serious, red, neon splendor. One stuck out.
“Ex- Penn State Football Coach Arrested, Charged with Child Sex Abuse.” Little did I know how much one headline would change not only a weekend trip to the city but my entire senior year at Penn State.
We all, as students, can probably remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the nauseating news. Years of abuse cover-ups, lies and a grand jury presentment chock-full of sickening secrets all came to a head in one week. A charity believed to have been an uplifting light in the lives of many disadvantaged kids was seen as a fraud. Our trustworthy administration turned its heads. Our legendary football coach was told he could have done more. Our entire university built on the foundation blocks of honor, integrity and tradition came crumbling down.
Campus felt clinically depressed. Professors either devoted the entire class to discussing what was going on or didn’t discuss it at all. Schoolwork fell by the wayside each time a new alert hit the newswire. Every Collegian bin was bare as we collected what would become pieces of history. We became numb. We were frustrated by the feeling that there was nothing we could do.
The public reacted. They called us “Ped State” and child rapists simply because of our affiliation with our school. ESPN had an entire tab devoted to the scandal. When typing “Penn State” into Google, the first results involved stories of other victims stepping forward. Rioters stormed Beaver Avenue. Media vans lined the streets and infested our beautiful campus. Interviews drifted to the subject as soon as the top lines of our resumes were read. Close family and friends called to gain perspective, while others made their own judgments without an ounce of compassion. Anyone on the outside looking in couldn’t begin to understand what emotions we were experiencing.
We carried a huge weight on our shoulders. We defended our school to anyone that bashed it. We held vigils and fundraisers to show sympathy for victims whose tragic childhoods we wish we could have changed. We prayed. We became more of a family than we already had been.
This summer, the sanctions came. We supported those who stayed committed, wished the best to those who chose to leave. The verdict was read. Justice was served, but the memory of what transpired still tugged at our hearts.
One year later, so much in this happy valley has changed.
We have a new president who has tried his hardest to clean up a mess of secrecy and insensitivity. He has held town hall meetings, listened to our concerns and took on a job most would have avoided at all costs.
We have a new football coach who has kept the tradition of success with honor but made necessary changes to move us forward. He didn’t try to replace his predecessor, but chose to start something new. He decided to place names on the backs of jerseys to show respect for those who chose to stick around. He leads some of the strongest players to ever come through the south tunnel of Beaver Stadium — players who are students just like us. They play for the victims, play for us, play to prove those wrong who didn’t believe we’d ever recover from this.
We all have something new in common. Something that unites us. We all share the memory of that week last November when we thought our world was falling apart, but each of us has seen how much we’ve grown as a result of it. We all have realized what Penn State means to us — what it represents and how it has shaped our lives in the relatively short amount of time that we’ve been here.
As we move forward — to grad school, law school, the workforce and beyond, there are two words that will always resonate within us; that will remind us of where we came from, what we’ve been through and what we’re truly capable of. Two words that will mean more to us than to anyone else in this world.
We are sorry for the actions of those who represented us.
We are proud of how far we’ve come.
We are hopeful for our future.
We are working at changing the world.
We are a family.
We are leaders.
We are enduring.
We are strong.
We are loyal.
We are, now, more than ever, Penn State.