Why We Can't Win
I used to teach seventh grade. If you’ve ever spent time with seventh graders you know they are unique and often act in ways that defy logic. Some days I would be left looking around saying, “What in the world? Where am I?” This bizarro world feeling is the same one I experience on a regular basis these days.
I was reading about Sandy Barbour’s twitter comment and all the reaction to it and I got such a headache I had to do something else. While I was putting my son to bed, my headache went away. Then, thinking about all of the Penn State news afterward, bam! Headache returns. Penn State news literally hurts me. I hate it.
I only met Joe Paterno a couple times so I didn’t know him personally, but I imagine he was the kind of person to call you out on your baloney. If you were playing games or trying to be shady, I could see him asking you what you were trying to pull, forcing you to get back on the side of sincerity. I think just having that person around keeps others in line. And when that person is not around... well, you have the leadership situation we are looking at. It’s not that I think Joe Paterno ran the campus. It’s that his integrity held such a large, noticeable presence. I miss that. It feels now like duplicity has seized control. It’s chaotic and we just can’t win.
We can’t win when our trustees hastily fire Joe Paterno over the phone one day and the next deny it under oath, claiming three years later that he wasn’t fired.
We can’t win when our university learns the NCAA coerced us into draconian penalties by bluffing one day and the next publicly states that the NCAA acted in good faith.
We can’t win when our athletic director expounds upon the virtues of Paterno’s place in our history one day and the next calls “409” stickers on hockey helmets “inappropriate and insensitive.”
We can’t win when our players’ and coaches’ record finally gets its respect returned and the next we’re smeared again in the media.
We can’t win when we get headaches hearing the latest news about our alma mater.
We’ve been hovering at this tipping point for weeks now and the weight of it is crushing. We voted out all nine alumni trustees, we voted out Corbett, we got our scholarships back, we got our bowl game back, Trustee Peetz resigned, we got our wins back... but with every step forward comes a step back. What will it take to start the ball rolling downhill faster and in our favor?
Maybe we need to start treating the board of trustee meetings like football weekends. What if we started showing up en masse. 107,000 alumni literally banging down the door. Demanding in person to be heard.
When I was a student, I got a kidney stone during finals week and I missed a final. I received an “incomplete” on my transcript and I had to make up the final up by a certain deadline the following semester or else the “incomplete” would become an “F.” I took the final but my professor failed to submit the grade. As a result, I was rejected from my major because my GPA was too low. After calling and emailing to no avail, I showed up during my professor’s office hours. She claimed she had phone calls to make and couldn’t meet with me, but I didn’t budge. I sat outside of her office for three hours until she finally came out with a print out of the grade and the email she had submitted to the dean to correct the problem and get me back into my major.
You can ignore emails. You can ignore phone calls. You can turn off the news. You can lie to yourself and believe your own fabricated narrative. But you can’t ignore the human being standing in front of you. How much more un-ignorable would a hundred thousand of us be?
It’ll be inconvenient. Most of you will have to take the day off of work. You might have to bring your kids. Somebody’s going to have to organize a giant tailgate. Other people will need to be in charge of signs. If you’re eloquent and composed, you should probably sign up to speak at the public comment portion, which will undoubtably be held somewhere you’ll need a treasure map to find. Call the students. Bring a friend. Wear your best Penn State gear.
You can do amazing things if you just show up.