The events of this relentlessly difficult year continue to unfold.
All of us are trying to move forward. But as we do, we need to move forward with integrity or we will become a different —worse — Penn State.
When we abandon “success with honor” as our guiding principle we will lose what is special about our school.
We will lose our soul.
To move forward with integrity, we need to fully and deeply understand the factors that allowed children to be harmed on our campus.
And then we need to address those problems so that it never happens again.
We do not yet know the truth about what happened.
Have you read the Freeh report?
Probably not, and understandably so. But please be aware that many of the reporters who castigated our university the day the report was released had not read it either.
How could they, when the reporting began 15 minutes after the 267-page report was released?
What they reported was the conclusions of the report — without evaluating the evidence — after Freeh himself gave a press conference sharing his conclusions.
The story quickly became old news, and reporters had little motivation to do the hard work involved in fully reviewing the report.
The intial narrative has stuck with us to this day.
It is a common reaction, after a careful read of the Freeh report, to be astonished at how thin the evidence is.
Freeh makes some interpretations of this sketchy evidence.
There are other interpretations that also could be made.
We do not yet have enough information to make firm conclusions.
Something went wrong at Penn State when Jerry Sandusky was not stopped.
It might have been as simple, though deeply regrettable, as the people involved not recognizing the subtle signs of sexual predation.
This is hardly an outlandish idea, given that Sandusky was investigated by professionals in 1998 and cleared, and was investigated repeatedly by professionals each time he adopted a child.
Or, perhaps there was a deliberate cover-up.
These two scenarios — and there could be others — lead to entirely separate courses of action to correct the mistakes that led to the abuse of children.
How to proceed?
Students and faculty must keep moving forward with the business of education.
It is the educational aspect that is this university’s reason for being.
And we must remember that.
Meanwhile, the leadership of Penn State needs to take all necessary steps to understand the events.
This will include waiting for legal proceedings to conclude, as well as actively pursuing other means to uncover the facts.
All of us need to keep an open mind while supporting the pursuit of the truth.
All of us need to remain patient.
It is tempting to push ahead, to get past the pain and disillusionment, and try to find a new normal.
But if we rush, if we cut corners, if we sacrifice our integrity by accepting a cheap version of the truth, what will we have left?
We will have dishonored the victims, who more than anyone deserve a truthful account leading to steps that will genuinely prevent future abuse.
We will have betrayed longstanding members of our community simply to create convenient scapegoats.
And we will have undermined what we love and respect most about our university.
We must find the courage and resolve to do what is right.
If we fail in this responsibility, the costs will be devastating.
Alice Pope, Class of 1979, is an associate professor in the department of psychology at St. John’s University. Her email is email@example.com