The Penn State Sex Abuse Scandal: Hitting Home on Many Levels for This Particular GeekMom

NOTE: Much of the text of this post is from a post I had written for my personal blog on Thursday, November 10th, shortly after the university Board of Trustees made their decision to remove President Graham Spanier and Head Football Coach Joe Paterno.  Some of my emotions and information in this post have been overcome by events.

Only the most die hard of GeekMom fans might have realized what a Penn State fan I am.  Because of the first avatar image I had used for my first six months writing here.

This picture.  I have been a proud life member of the Penn State Alumni Association since I graduated in 1995.  My house is decorated all over the place, my husband and I have a closet full of sweatshirts, polo shirts, hoodies, football jerseys, and my sons have more than their share of posters, pennants, and stuffed Nittany Lions decorating their bedrooms.

But that pride has been bruised quite a bit this past week.

If you’re an American, unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s hard to miss how the web world is filled with the Penn State Athletics Sex Scandal. Or whatever you want to call it.

This incident makes me ashamed for all the times I’ve called Florida Staters the “Criminoles” and equated red sweater vests with “Liars”.  What Penn State’s leaders have done makes all those NCAA violations child’s play.  How could you, Penn State leadership????

The blogosphere has been filled with essays and op-eds from all walks of life.  My husband and I saw this particularly brash (but well written) essay by blogger John Scalzi, comparing Penn State with science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guinn’s short story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”.  In Omelas, one youngster must suffer to keep the rest of the land in grace and harmony.  Might Penn State have allowed a few underprivledged youth to suffer to save their reputation as a university formerly famous for balancing academic and athletic integrity?

Via e-mail, Twitter and Facebook, I’ve been commiserating with my PSU classmates.  We’re convincing each other that the university will dust off, move on and continue to move forward.  We’re pondering amongst each other what the leaders must have been thinking to cover up something like this, whether JoePa will receive any traditional retirement benefits, and all those great Linebacker U players who regarded Sandusky as a mentor right up through this year! The alumni association is pleading with their membership to continue support to the association and university.  Ironically, we received an Penn State Annual Gift letter on Tuesday.  We typically give a modest amount every year, specifically targeting the meteorology department and AFROTC.  This likely won’t change…those departments still need support.

But other thoughts have entered the mothering side of my brain.  I had these same thoughts in 2008, which is when we learned through our local TV station that my oldest son’s soccer coach in Apex, NC was arrested on sexual misconduct charges.  Thoughts like “How can I trust any other athletic coach?” and “How do I know that ANY adult my child interacts with isn’t a sexual offender?”

So now I get nervous thoughts about my kids going off to school each day, going off to college in the future, headed out to Boy Scout camp — without the parents — by the time they’re in 5th grade.

I don’t want to go through life like this.  I want to trust people.  After all, I trusted a 19-year-old with my sons for a few days in September while my husband and I traveled to Omaha on AF business, right?  I trust my sons on a school bus every day, I trust them at birthday parties, at school, and at those occasional trips they take with friends’ parents.  Other parents trust me with their kids.

Fortunately, Penn State is attempting to make amends at lightning speed.  This past weekend, in conjunction with their final 2011 home game against University of Nebraska, Penn State joined forces with the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), set up the #ProudPSUforRAINN campaign, and set a $500,000 fundraising goal.  In 96 hours, as of this writing, this fundraiser has generated over $315,000 already!

So the decisions have been made swiftly, hopefully the justice system will work out and if found guilty, Jerry Sandusky will never be allowed to interact with youth ever again.  Some of my friends and colleagues are wishing for much much worse, but I won’t go there with this audience.