May No Act of Ours Bring Shame: The Riot That Never Should Have Happened

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It is difficult for me to put into words how I feel at this moment. Having been at the Board of Trustees press conference last night, I had heard rumors that Joe Paterno would not be permitted to coach the season’s concluding matches. I immediately feared that there would be a riot, but I could have never predicted what actually transpired.

Fulfilling my journalistic duties, I immediately took to Beaver Avenue to capture what was going on. I watched students flood onto the street, shouting “Fuck Sandusky,” “Fuck the police,” and “Fuck the media.” I watched students start fires, tear down signs, and pull down street lamps as students desperately retreated from their path of falling. I watched students throw rocks and other items at police and media, destroy every window of a media van and then tip it over, and get maced by police.

So, to those who participated in these acts, tell me, what exactly have you accomplished? Do you feel like you have justified all the wrongs that have come into light and occurred throughout this week? Have you brought honor to Joe Paterno and our university?

No, you have done the exact opposite.

First, let me say that I understand that you are all very angry. You have every right to be angry. The students, alumni, and faculty who had nothing to do with the Sandusky tragedy have acquired a reputation that none of us deserve. Certain members of our administration and community have proven to us that they have little care for the standards of which they hold us to. They have been slow to amend these crimes, and have certainly made little effort to communicate with us. But why have we let our anger be shown in such a reckless and violent manner?

We all get caught up in moments of passion, but if we are unable to take a moment to step back, and find a positive outlet, then we must not act. I understand that the student body wanted to make a point that the Board of Trustees decision to fire JoePa was not OK with us. However, all that we have done is null if we do not make a difference.

I believe tonight’s riot occurred because of a serious lack of education of what exactly occurred in the Sandusky case. While I do not want to jump to conclusions, I do not think it is too bold for me to say that the majority of students who participated in the aforementioned actions last night have not taken the time to read through, or give proper attention to the grand jury report, for if we all had, Joe Paterno would not have been our main focus this week.

Where has your fury been for the victims of Sandusky’s molestation? When it all comes down to it, this is not a Penn State issue, but a human issue. I will never be able to comprehend what these children went through, and the suffering that surely follows them to this day. The damage that this university has incurred is absolutely insignificant to that of the victims. Hell, we struggled to replace our “White Out” for a “Blue Out” in order to recognize and raise funds for the victims, and some are still unwilling to make this immeasurable sacrifice because it is their last game, or some other insensitive reasoning. The victims have been the most overlooked during this week, and we are just as at fault as the media and the administration.

Where is your passion for restructuring the administrative system that has permitted these children to suffer for over a decade? It is simply not enough to oust all of those who are responsible for this travesty. There are systemic problems with accountability and transparency inside our administration, and we have done nothing about this.

Do we even remember that this is all because of Jerry Sandusky?

I cannot fathom the lack of logic our student body displayed during this riot. Both Beaver Avenue and College Avenue are riddled with destruction, and no one seemed to care about the effect it would have on our community. State College does not just belong to Penn State, but to all who live here. If I were a parent living in State College, I would fear to ever let my child walk on the downtown streets again.

What was the purpose for destroying the WTAJ news van? A lot of people have been complaining that the media is only focusing on Joe Paterno, but is this so unreasonable when all of our actions have been centered around him? The students have provided the media with nothing else to cover, and so we cannot exclusively blame them for the light in which this whole situation has been portrayed to the world. Also, they are just doing their job. Sandusky was involved with the football program, and Joe Paterno, who represents everything Penn State football, was involved, so of course a good amount of attention is going to fall on him. This is nothing new. I am not justifying some of the reporting, but they did not deserve the response we gave them.

All this week, we have tried to convey the message to the world that Penn State is more than just football, but we have not proven that. As my close friend, and fellow Penn State student, Josh Branch put it: The whole country is watching how a university claims to be more than just “X,Y, and Z” then riots and destroys a town over, “X, Y, and Z.”

I want to state that I do not hate Joe Paterno. He has been the moral compass of this university for decades, and has more than helped fashion the image that people have respected for years. I do not believe he ever had any malicious intent, but JoePa admitted that he wishes he had done more in the situation, and understood that it was best that he step down. I cannot explain how sad I am that I will never get to see Joe coach another Penn State football game, and it is, in my opinion unfair, that he cannot even walk onto the pitch at Beaver Stadium one last time. But rioting was never the correct solution to addressing our dismay. To the few that peacefully congregated outside of Joe’s house, thank you. As evident by the video, the constant support from the student’s has helped him through these rough days. And what did JoePa have to say to those who came to his house? He told the students to go home and study. Rioters, if you think you made JoePa proud, you are sadly mistaken.

We have been worried about the unwarranted shame that Sandusky and those involved has brought to Penn State, but the shame is on us now. Throughout the entire riot, students were screaming “WE ARE PENN STATE.” However, if our actions last night are what Penn State symbolizes, then I want nothing to do with Penn State.

However, it is never too late to remedy our transgressions. It is time that we take our passion and give it aim. Let us all come together peacefully and heal this broken family. We must become informed,  seek to better the lives of the victims in any way possible, and never settle until this administration understands reputation and money never comes before morals.

Photo By: Eric Weiss

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About Author

Hailing from Lebanon, PA, I am a senior majoring in print journalism. Things I enjoy include lovesacs, denim, mullets, Fight Milk, Jonny Moseley, and "hang in there" kitten posters. Things that bother me include "fun" sized candy bars (not fun), fish, shoobies, wet door knobs, baby leashes, and Jake Lloyd.