Alums Should Accept Penn State Will Never Be the Same

penn stateOne of the most interesting things to me about the Sandusky sex scandal has been the extreme passion and zeal Penn State fans/faculty/students have for their school. Throughout the duration of this disturbing mess, I can't tell you how many times I've heard references to "protecting the Penn State brand." It's unlike anything I've ever seen or heard of before. And apparently this devotion doesn't die with age.

Rodney Erickson, Penn State's president, has been holding town-hall meetings for alums of the school as the Sandusky ordeal continues. And the alums are not happy with how Erickson has been handling the situation -- particularly the firing of Joe Paterno. They feel that the image of their beloved school has been unjustly tarnished, and they're not taking it lightly. And see, Erickson actually agrees. But the alums still don't care.

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At one of the meetings recently, here's what Erickson had to say: "It grieves me very much when I hear people say 'the Penn State scandal.' This is not Penn State. This is 'the Sandusky scandal.' We're not going to let what one individual did destroy the reputation of this university."

Alumni in attendance weren't buying it, though. One said: "You said it's not a Penn State scandal, but it is, because perception is reality"; while another commented: "I'm a big Joe Pa fan, and I think he was treated unjustly." And, of course, with that mention, things really started getting heated. People started asking Erickson if he was planning on apologizing to Paterno, to which he replied with the buck-passing reminder that the board fired Paterno, not him.

Bottom line here is, nobody wants to take responsibility for anything, but everybody wants the Penn State name back in tact. That's never going to happen. Because, even though Sandusky is the sole person actually responsible for what transpired, the cover-up was a group effort -- in the name of protecting the school's image.

What Erickson is doing here is a balancing act -- and a terrible one at that. He doesn't want to offend students and alumni of the school, but he wants it to seem to the general public that he's been "doing the right thing." What does he mean when he says the board fired Paterno? Does he mean that he thinks he shouldn't have been fired?

Sure, people's memories of the debacle will fade with time, but the Penn State brand will never be what it once was, and that's just that. The sad thing is, this all could have been avoided if people had spoken up when they should have.

What do you think of Penn State's president?

 

Image via Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr

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