The Penn State Scandal: A Graduate's Perspective

Assistant Editor, Online Specialist, Carnegie Communications

Jul   2012



College athletics blogger Megan Gibbs recently wrote an overview of the Penn State NCAA sanctions that resulted from the Sandusky scandal. I give her much credit for writing this in an impartial manner, and I give her even more credit because she had to give it to a Penn State graduate to proofread (that’s me!). We originally planned to have some of my own commentary in her entry, but given the prominence of this news story, we agreed that my feelings might be best expressed in a separate post. Many have approached me throughout this whole ordeal to discuss my feelings and opinion on the matter, so here are some of the primary categories non–Penn Staters most often wonder about.

So . . . How are you feeling right now?

Depressed, confused, heartbroken . . . those are only a few of the many feelings I have! Our thoughts are constantly with not only Sandusky’s victims but all victims of sexual abuse. I despise him and those who covered his treachery, but many people now associate defending our school with supporting child abuse. That is not the case. Period. Rather, what I’m defending is the education, experience, friends, and ambition I gained during my Glory Days.

What makes this even more painful is that I, of course, work in higher education. I monitor a range of journalists and publications to get the latest higher education news (in case something is relevant to all you faithful CollegeXpress readers), so it was salt on the wound to see so much negative buzz about the school I love so much.

Do you still support Joe Paterno?

Honestly, no. I did at first—back in November, we all gave him the benefit of the doubt and hoped he truly didn’t know of Sandusky’s actions. Those of us in the Penn State community are the only ones who saw all the good that he did humbly—whether it was funding our library or scholarship programs, or simply by having his name listed in the phone book—but we have now seen the research from the Freeh Report. I’d still like to think this mistake was a single lapse of judgment, but it was a horrible one that I just cannot condone. I was heavily involved in THON, Penn State’s student-run philanthropy that supports kids with cancer. Our school is focused on the well-being of children, so the fact that this all happened on our campus is perplexing and painful.

The football culture

The buzz about the “football culture” is non-stop. Outsiders believe that Penn State is (or was) a football school. Yes, it was a major part of the tradition there, and as a student, you entered it wholeheartedly and fed into the faithfulness of Penn State football. But only those of us who went there know that it’s part of the package deal. Have you seen those ads that talk about cable/Internet/phone bundles? Think of football as one of those parts of the bundle. I wanted the whole package, and if Penn State had great football but lacked a solid academic reputation, an abundant student life, philanthropic events, experiential opportunities, etc., then I, like most students, would have selected a different college.

Do you think the NCAA sanctions are fair?

The million-dollar question! I think it’s fair, but in an ideal world, there is one thing I would change: I wish they banned Penn State from bowl games for two or three years instead of four. For new freshmen on the football team—who had nothing to do with the scandal whatsoever—the four years doesn’t give them any light at the end of the football tunnel. But, regardless, those players who are staying will likely do so because of that package deal I mentioned—nowhere else will they play football with great fans, a wonderful education, and an environment as nurturing as Happy Valley.

In the end . . .

. . . Penn State is a wonderful school. If you’re considering Penn State and may be applying there this fall, don’t let any of this change your mind! Even the football players—who are affected the most by these sanctions—are sticking with the University (see the video below). Penn State provided me with the greatest four years of my life, and it could very well do the same for you.

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About Catherine Seraphin

Catherine Seraphin

Catherine Seraphin is the Digital Media Project Manager at Harvard University, formerly the Assistant Editor, Online Specialist for Carnegie Communications. Catherine graduated from Penn State University with a degree in journalism, a minor in English, and course concentrations in business. She was previously an in-depth arts reporter for Penn State’s student-run newspaper, The Daily Collegian, and interned as a features reporter at a paper based in Southern Massachusetts. Catherine previously had a full-year internship with a well-known higher education PR firm. Her favorite experiences during college include her two years as a resident assistant and her involvement in THON, the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. There, she was on the PR committee that helped THON become the third most tweeted topic worldwide. When she isn’t working, you can find Catherine shopping, reading, running, or updating her social media pages.

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