by a Professional Faculty mom of a 2 year old daughter
I sit at my desk this morning both in shocked and troubled by the Penn State tragedy. I choose to use the word tragedy because as both a mother and educator, this is unacceptable and tragic. I am a self-proclaimed college football fanatic and I understand the value and contribution Joe Paterno has made to not only football but to Penn State as well, after all one of their libraries is Paterno Library. However, there is no excuse for what he did, or in this case did NOT do. Bystander intervention is a huge issue we face, there are so many instances where had someone just spoken up or stepped in there would have been less harm done. Especially in this case, where multiple people knew, suspected or just felt something was wrong and still chose to look the other way.
As a mother, it is scary enough to know that these disgusting people already exist and are a part of our society, but to know that no one is willing to say “not here, not on my watch, not in my house,” is even scarier.
Actually—It makes me angry! As parents, we need back up, we need people (especially other parents) on our side, who are willing to care (even if just for moment) if our kids is safe. This isn’t a fantasy and I don’t feel it is much to ask. As an educator, it feels like 20 steps back. We are constantly asking our students to watch out for each other and intervene when necessary. We have whole programs dedicated to by-stander intervention, especially as it pertains to sexual abuse and assault.
If a President of a major university and the Head football coach (who carries just as much weight…probably more) can’t stand up for what is right, then how can we ask an 18-20 year old to do the same?
I applaud the Board of Trustees for sending a message that this is unacceptable behavior and that it will not be tolerated, my only concern is that our judicial system is not set up the same way for these types of crimes. The perpetrator will get prosecuted and Paterno and Spanier will take their slap on the wrist (while still maintaining their lifestyle) and at most will have to re-locate because of the “supporters” out front. In 6 months life will go on, and the magnitude of what happened will subside, but the rubble will remain. What is left is a once-solid football program that is scarred, a student body that may be somewhat divided, and 8+ survivors who have to live with it all—All because someone didn’t say “not here, not on my watch, not in my house.”