Saturday, November 12, 2011

WE ARE Penn State

I have a confession to make.  I went to Penn State.  Until last week, this was a positive thing.  I have been very surprised by the benefits I receive due to my Penn State degree.  I got my first job from a former Penn Stater and I now talk to many employers who say they specifically seek Penn State grads in my field.  (I can't speak for other fields, but the engineering program at Penn State is pretty well respected.)  As such, many potential clients and competitors are former Penn Staters, and the most common reactions I get when asked about my alma mater are "Oh, I went there too!", and "Oh, my cousin's nephew's best friend went there, do you know him?"  (By the way, I do not.)

This week, the reactions have been more along the lines of, "Oh, I'm sorry."  As if I had something to do with the terrible news headlines of late.  I even considered not replacing my Penn State magnets on the back of my car after I finished washing it today.  So then I thought, how can I turn this around?  I have no say in whether Penn State decides to donate their ticket sales this week to a charity (though I like the idea).  I have no say in whether the head coach deserves the blame for not doing more.  Do the citizens of Germany during the 1940's deserve blame for the horrors of the concentration camps?  I think there could be debate for either side, but generally, I say they do not deserve the blame, but they should take responsibility for the solution.

This is why I decided to look up a local charity that helps abused children, their parents, and even the abusers.  I made a donation "from a Penn State Alum".  It is not much, but maybe if everyone does just one positive thing, we can rise above the actions of one jackass and become the erudite members of society we think WE ARE.

And for good measure, I finally decided to post my version of the "Where I'm From Poem" which I revised to reflect my experience at Penn State.  (Post your own or add to the comments.  The template can be found here.)


WE ARE from extra long twin sheets, from Chicken Cosmos and Milwakee’s “Beast” Ice. 

WE ARE from the East Halls parking lot (icy, barren, it seemed it would take a lifetime to cross it on a cold winter morning). 

WE ARE from Mount Nittany, the unhiked state park trails and cornfields surrounding campus.

WE ARE from teapot renditions and dishroom towels, from Louass and Bagg and Boob. 

WE ARE from the work study programs and Caps Tournaments. 

From “when we grow up we’ll go to Penn State” and “that’s where dad wrote his initials in front of Patee Library.” 

WE ARE from “We know god is a Penn State fan because the sky is Blue and White” and using the church next to Beekman’s bagels to point us in the direction of campus.

WE ARE Pittsburgh or Philly, from strip sandwiches, whoopie pies, “Death by Chocolate” and “Peachy Paterno”.

From the stolen block of cheese, and did we mention it was five pounds?, and the racing of the keg across town to Suzanne’s place. 

WE ARE from Brodie’s old photo albums, so young, so thin, not knowing we’d remember the days till we’re 40.


No matter how hard I scrubbed, I just couldn't get the spots from those magnets to blend in, so I'm putting them back on.  A testament to the rarity of a car wash?  Shut up, Constant Reader, I'm trying to make a point.


Danielle Mari said...

Good for you! And love your poem. (Love the original and love the details in yours.) I adore that you did this.

It's an interesting point you raise (not about the car washes... I think they are so overrated) about assigning blame. I am usually with you on the idea of not blaming without direct knowledge of the goings-ons. But this... this feels so very clear-cut to me.

As one whose family escaped Hitler's Germany, I have to say I wince at how often it is invoked as analogy. I get that the evil in such acts may be parallel. However, I don't think living in a culture of fear (not of losing a job but of losing one's life) necessarily translates into what we're talking about here. These individuals witnessed and/or had been alerted to the fact of a child being raped and did not run into that shower and punch the dude in the head... because of... whatever reasons they might have had. What? Losing a job? Losing face? Losing money?

While I don't think you or anyone who has a magnet on their car should for that reason be blamed, I do think those who knew are in fact to be blamed as they have proven that they are incapable of taking responsibility unless made to do so. It is sad and disgusting that current students who have nothing whatever to do with this horrific failure of adults to protect children will undoubtedly pay for it for many years to come. It's even more sad and disgusting that nobody (nobody!) stopped the crimes to begin with.

kt said...

Even though I am not an alumnae, I consider Penn State a Great university. Hopefully, they can recover from past events as this institution has been a major contributor to the quality of education in the united states.

I, for one, can't see holding the entire university responsible for the few individuals who were involved in whatever capacity.

kt oh by the way...I'm back.....