Don’t Be Ashamed of Penn State’s Culture
Reading the comments section of a CNN article about Penn State can be draining, frustrating, and saddening. Claims range from not caring about the victims of Sandusky’s crimes, to supporting child molesters, to being ashamed of Penn State and its students. A popular opinion is that Penn State officials concealed Sandusky’s crimes (opinions on that can be saved for another article), and they did it because of Penn State’s culture…
“We worship football, so much that it trumps any feelings we may have of integrity. It’s the kind of feeling that would compel a person to cover-up a crime if it meant we wouldn’t lose ticket sales. We hold our players and coaches in the tier of godliness. There isn’t much we wouldn’t sacrifice, morally or otherwise, to see them play even a little better. That’s the social contract you agree to when you come here. Without football, Penn State has nothing going for it. We’ll do anything to win.”
There are a lot of people who think this is the truth. It’s insulting to be accused of those things. It’s upsetting that they may be among the reasons a group of men let children be harmed. I’m an advocate of the sixth amendment, so I’ll withhold rambling about the facts of the case. But the argument that we have a “culture of football” remains, and I believe it’s something we can address now.
Think about what Penn State’s culture is. Regardless of what our so-called leaders do, what’s the student experience at Penn State and what are the common beliefs that brought us here? We believe in world class academics. We used to never have to prove that to anyone, but just in case you need a refresher, take a look at Penn State’s nationally ranked programs.
Our conviction is “Success with Honor,” reflected in fundraisers like THON, Lift for Life, and RAINN among many others. We have a passion for athletics: 29 varsity teams together with 68 national championships — 40 of which are from the NCAA. Two are for football. We have 60 Big Ten championships. Three are for football. We’re proud of every team at Penn State and we’re proud of every Nittany Lion, because they come here to excel in their sport and to learn from a great university. They do twice the work of any other student and they’re proud of it too.
Our 29 teams consistently rank at the top in graduation rates and Penn Staters are honored to cheer them on. The reason we have these athletics programs and the reason we excel in every one is because of our belief in success with honor. It’s something that students want to fulfill. It’s the reason we came to Penn State.
That’s our culture. Penn Staters have a passion for success with honor in every discipline – academic, athletic, and philanthropic. We’re proud to make athletics a part of our lives and student athletes are proud to come here because of our expectations of integrity, honor, and education. Football is one of the most exciting ways we’ve found to instill those values in students. That’s why the fans cheer with so much passion. No one can boil our culture or values down to any one person – maybe as an example? Sure. But the message transcends any one man, it remains the same no matter who says it, and it is the motivation for thousands of Penn Staters: “Success with Honor.”
If it is within the NCAA’s authority to sanction us, then they’ll have a hard time finding a rational reason to punish our student athletes. They claim it’s so that we can focus less on bowl games and more on fixing our broken culture. It makes no sense, but it is the public’s stigma against our football program that brought it on.
They’ve falsely assigned where the problem lies. We need to evaluate how the administration works and make sure they understand the Penn State way as much as the students who came here to be a part of it. Taking away opportunities for student athletes isn’t going to fix any problem. Mr. Emmert, you haven’t crushed us like you set out to. We will accept your challenge to be leaders in child abuse prevention, and we’ll continue to support our Nittany Lions – the shining examples of success with honor.
Penn Staters, don’t be ashamed of our culture. Embrace it and uphold it. Don’t let the people who slipped through the cracks redefine Penn State. You have every right to make the critics eat their words when they challenge your integrity. Be proud of why you’re at Penn State. We are students at a world class university and on top of that, we support student athletes who rival all else in integrity. We fight for the kids. We achieve success with honor. We are… Penn State.