There is a difference between campaigning for the truth and behaving petulantly while insisting that you're right. In the search for truth, some vocal alumni gathered outside of the Board of Trustees meeting last Friday holding signs and chanting their opposition to the actions of the board following the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case.
These alumni also protest Rodney Erickson's acceptance of the NCAA sanctions imposed on Penn State’s football program, and believe he should resign as a matter of course.
Frankly, we are…feeling embarrassed.
Protests are acceptable forms of dissent, and if some alumni feel the need to disagree, it is absolutely within their right to protest at Board of Trustees meetings. Peaceful gatherings are a healthy exercise of constitutional rights.
However, what happened on Friday is not in keeping with how many members of the Penn State student body or alumni base feel. Friday's protest was an exercise in digging in your heels and refusing to yield.
University Park Undergraduate Association President Katelyn Mullen spent some time at the protest — called the March For Truth — and a clip surfaced on YouTube showing her engaging in a debate with an alumna.
This alumna says to Mullen, "We're not doing anything to badly reflect on this university…all we want here is the truth. What's so horrible about wanting the truth?"
Mullen calmly made valid points about the concerns of the student body in this time of transition — when students are applying for jobs, they're being asked about the Sandusky scandal instead of their individual accomplishments. Mullen disagreed that these alumni antics do not reflect negatively on current students, and she's right. The actions of a vocal minority are defining us as a school.
Nothing is horrible about wanting the truth, but this alumna's argumentative tone and refusal to listen to Mullen’s points is immature and shows the feverish nature of these protests. It’s disgraceful to hear some of these alumni protesters argue that the students are ill-equipped to understand what is happening with the administration, or are too shielded or controlled by the Board of Trustees to make our own decisions.
How dare you assert that we don't care about this university as much as the alumni simply because of our age?
After two long years of exhausting and emotionally trying times on this campus, students are ready to look to the future of Penn State rather than dwell endlessly on the past. The truth that the alumni protesters do not understand or refuse to consider is what it was like to be a student on this campus the day the Sandusky case broke.
They don't know what it was like to frantically pull up the grand jury presentment on your computer and read every word with your roommate in your dorm, barely breathing.
They don't know what it was like to be on campus the night Joe Paterno was fired, to cry silently in class or to be in the center of mass confusion and riot — literally in a state of flux for weeks and months on end.
It was an experience that can only be understood by those who lived it. And for those who have lived it, the thought of rebuilding and moving forward from some of the darkest times this university has seen sounds like a pretty good idea.
If you truly believe that there is a truth to be revealed, we encourage you to seek it. But seek it respectfully and objectively. Continue to investigate, consider all sides, and realize that the chances of the entire Board of Trustees stepping down is slim to none.
Stamping your feet and crossing your arms in defiance is not productive or conducive to the image of our school, our community or our actual alumni base. It's important to consider that only about 200 people showed up at the March For Truth, and these small protests do not represent the greater move for progress among students and alumni.
We do not suggest to forget our past or those who shaped it, but moving forward into a future post-Sandusky scandal is a welcome and necessary opportunity — an opportunity Penn State should take rather than rally against.