No matter how hard I try not to admit it, after living in Pennsylvania for more than 18 years, a little bit of the blue state did rub off on me. Needless to say, during the past two weeks, it has been difficult thinking of the circumstances involving the infamous Pennsylvania State University. In fact, when living in PA, you quickly learn there really is no other college in the state of its caliber where its alumni rally behind, attend football games way into retirement, name as beneficiaries in estates and support every decision made by the college’s football coaching staff. For students who knew they wanted to attend Penn State while in high school but lived in another state, their parents relocated to Pennsylvania to increase the odds of acceptance. I know, I have one friend who did this for her son.
Then, scandal dealt its ugly blow. During one beautiful fall day, with just five football games left in the season, the coach took his own tackle, sack, or what have you, along with the college president and a multitude of assistant coaches and other supporting staff. And, what is left is a college that is still in a state of shock. Students are upset and angry, parents are feeling blindsided and a seamless reputation that can never be repaired no matter what high-price Public Relations firm is hired. The college’s image is slowly crumbling bit by bit. Children were abused and that is the lowest of lows. It makes me physically sick to think of what was occurring and why no one did anything about it.
Penn State is a unique college and until you know the students and have been on the campus you may have a difficult time understanding the love you feel for its history, the leadership and the once spotless reputation. However, what we now know is that we were misled. But, why? Was it for the good of the college or for the sake of its reputation? Were things brushed under the rug, not talked about, or lies told to save jobs, to save face, or to increase enrollment? Sadly, I am not sure any of us will ever know how far this scandal reaches. While I know there are two sides to every story and the college hasn’t revealed theirs, they are gearing up for a heavy battle — just two and a half hours away from where the Battle of Gettysburg was fought some 148 years ago.
Other colleges and institutions are now speaking out stating that they also have their own secrets and covered up similar abuse cases. I wonder how high that number will climb as the weeks pass. Colleges are supposed to be protecting students as they take an additional step into the real world…how can they cover up cases when these are the very students they are supposed to be protecting, teaching, and preparing?
I didn’t go to a college where football was a favorite pastime. In fact, there was no football team. I went to an all female college in a very red state where women were taught to be independent thinkers and to compete in a man’s world. Our mascot wasn’t a Nittany Lion – in fact it was a rodent. However, we were taught the value of teamwork, competition and sportsmanship in sports and in the classroom. Our coaches weren’t the best, but they respected the students and, as far as I know, never once did any student feel violated or ever put in an uncomfortable situation. The college lives by a strict honor code that is still in place today – for the students, professors, coaches, etc. While I can’t speak for Penn State’s honor code and whether there is one, I would think that might be a good place to start rebuilding trust and to help do damage control.
As I have been thinking more about this topic during this past week, I have concluded that maybe there is justice in this world for those who commit a wrong — even 40+ years later. While I am struggling with my forgiveness of Dr. Liar and the mistake he made during my surgery, I am definitely not the only one who has forgiving to do. I did some research on the real ‘Dr. Liar’ and it appears that there are other patients who also don’t see him as ‘favorable.’ He has multiple reviews about his bedside manner, his need for speed to operate and other various medical concerns. Like Penn State’s coaches, you may appear to be a superstar in the ‘court of people’s opinion’ one day, but once the dirty little secrets are out, that opinion can change in an instant.
While I was in PA, Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky walked on water. Today, they are living a very different life signing contracts with high-priced, high-powered attorneys in Washington, D.C. Oh, how the mighty can fall and how quickly it happens. While I don’t know the truth about Coaches Paterno and Sandusky, I do know the truth about Dr. Liar and hope that his justice will be uncovered before any additional damage is done. I also hope that those who were abused during these past years will not have this drag on for years or decades.
While in many ways I believe that I have been waiting for God to reveal to me whether Dr. Liar will be forgiven, I also know that it really isn’t any of my business. What I do know is that if Dr. Liar continues on his pathway to destruction (continuing his lies, operating aggressively, not reporting his mistakes to Risk Management, etc.) that it will catch up with him, like it did to those at Penn State. I guess the expression – ‘what goes around come around’ – means different things to people. The sad part of the situation is that people have to get hurt along the way. Those children and families who were abused or injured, etc. – it seems just owning up to your responsibility and to the right thing would have saved a lot of heartache on both parts (the victims and those who committed the crime). Just telling the truth is so much easier. I believe people are so much more forgiving when you just say you are sorry. It’s when you try to cover up the truth that shows that you are nothing more than a coward whether it’s running a college or university, a football team or performing an operation. We all need to live in the moment and be responsible for our actions. We need to be adults and treat others with respect.
Not that I am grateful that this situation occurred, but I have to admit that I am glad it finally surfaced and those who have carried this pain for so many years will be able to move on. It’s a tough road to live when someone has done you wrong. My thoughts and prayers are with those who have been living with this secret. May this truth help begin your course of forgiveness. It’s a step in the right direction and while the steps are difficult, I have learned that without them you are simply walking in place and keeping your emotions inside. Let it out and let it go. It hurts, but so does healing, and it does take time. You will look back, you will blame others, you will ask why. But, in time, it will get a little easier and mixed in with those difficult days are a few where the sun shines a little brighter. It’s just time for that sun to shine on those who have been abused and not on the Penn State coaches, who believe it or not — never walked on water.