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Patty Kleban: Sports Illustrated Misses the Mark with Penn State Cover One Year After Sandusky Scandal

by on November 05, 2012 6:45 AM

Under the heading “Let’s continue to misrepresent and sensationalize a story to sell magazines” last week’s Sports Illustrated has a picture of a Beaver Stadium WhiteOut on the cover with the subtitle “Defiance, Collective Guilt, Revival.”

Seriously? Defiance?

I didn’t feel the need to actually purchase or read the article, so I can only guess that Sports Illustrated has again decided to point fingers. The 108,000 fans that filled Beaver Stadium for the Penn State loss against Ohio State has apparently once again refueled the anger and the accusations that the whole Penn State community is to blame for the actions of Jerry Sandusky.

Sports Illustrated, get over your own bad selves.

The term defiant as defined by dictionary.com means opposition to authority or an open disregard or contempt for something. People in our community support our students and our athletes and that somehow makes us defiant. We allegedly aided and abetted a pedophile. We are accused of being accomplices. Huh?

For the Penn State Haters, the mere assertion that the Penn State community was not responsible for the crimes that were committed on our campus and elsewhere is only further proof that the members of the Penn State “cult” are in denial.

It’s a no-win situation. It’s like answering the question “When did you stop beating your wife?”

For many, there aren’t enough mea culpas, sexual abuse fundraisers or NCAA sanctions to right the wrongs that they believe define Penn State. For those people, any acts in support of our students, our athletes or our university is just more thumbing our collective noses at the victims or the justice system or the NCAA. The Penn State haters see defiance in our mere continued existence.

I’m sorry Sports Illustrated, but I didn’t do a thing.

I’m an alumni, a faculty member and a Penn State Mom. When the news broke about the events in our community, I was as horrified as you were. I, too, believe that if there are people who intentionally covered up crimes to protect an institution, they should pay. Just like you, I also breathed a sigh of relief when the pedophile at the heart of this scandal was tried, convicted and sent to live out the rest of his life in prison.

Defiant? Not even close.

Last week, I taught courses, met with students and participated in the search committee for a new department head. I conducted trainings as part of the Inclusive Recreation for Wounded Warrior program that my department is offering to the Department of Defense for Wounded Warriors. I contacted agencies to help our students find an internship. I graded papers, assisted with graduation plans and accompanied students to an out of state conference to support their professional development.

I also attended a training on what a mandated reporter, an authorized adult and Penn State employees must do in the event that we suspect that a child is being or has been abused.

Collective guilt? For what?

Like the sports writers and reporters and bloggers across the country who were shocked to learn about what had been happening in our community, the Penn State community was just as shocked. We didn’t know about the crimes that were being perpetuated by a now convicted pedophile. The students attending classes didn’t know. The faculty teaching and advising didn’t know. The researchers conducting scholarly studies didn’t know. The support staff didn’t know. Our friends and neighbors in the community didn’t know. The business owners where we shop and eat and recreate didn’t know.

And yet, Sports Illustrated, you blame all of us and call us defiant.

Of the 41,000 full-time and part-time Penn State employees, 96,562 Penn State students (including the 11,984 PSU World Campus students) and over 557,000 Penn State Alumni, only a few were aware of the criminal behaviors of a man who was driven to hide those very same and demented behaviors. I barely know what goes on in the other floors of my office building at Penn State, let alone what was happening in a men’s locker room across campus.

We didn’t know.

On the other hand, local police, Children and Youth Services, local school districts, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office – and our current Governor – were very aware of a potential monster in our community and either didn’t believe it or made the decision to wait to arrest him. Where are the magazine covers and accusations about their collective guilt and defiance?

Penn State has accepted the sanctions even though we look around and see other universities whose crimes were actually related to athletics or academics and the NCAA looks the other way. Despite incredible pressure and intense negative public reaction, our teams are winning and our students are learning. Our faculty continue to produce groundbreaking research. We support RAINN, THON and too many service organizations to number. The graduation rate of all of our students, including our athletes, sets the bar for higher learning across the nation.

Defiant? Not even close.

Penn State’s pulse is strong, our community is standing together and “We Are” a great institution of higher learning. just as we have been since 1855. The actions of one man do not define our university. Those actions do not define us as students, faculty or alumni. Supporting Penn State and our outrage at the crimes committed and our support of the victims in this scandal do not have to be an either/or proposition.

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Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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