By Sarah Wright
Yesterday's News - But Not at Penn State
It's been a few months since the Penn State football coaching scandal broke. For the most part, the story is out of the news and out of the public consciousness. There are a few exceptions, like the university's search for a new football coach, and accused child molester Jerry Sandusky's bizarre attempts to give his side of the story to major news outlets. On the whole, though, this is yesterday's news, gone with the tide of newer and more current events.
Though the national eye has mostly turned elsewhere, Penn State students, faculty, staff and alumni are likely still feeling the aftershocks of the scandal, which created conflict and shook the foundations of what is normally a very tight-knit community. Part of that conflict came about as a result of an on-campus riot on November 9, 2011. The impetus for the riot was a protest of the firing of longtime Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, who was implicated in the cover-up of numerous on-campus sexual assaults of children by former assistant coach Sandusky. The riot gained national attention and is said by State College police to be one of the most destructive in the college's history, causing about $190,000 in property damage.
Fallout from that riot isn't limited to damage to the university's property and reputation, though - several people have been charged in connection with the riot. According to The Chronicle for Higher Education, 23 people, 20 of whom are Penn State students, had been charged with crimes connected to the riot as of December 9, 2011. At that point, an additional 16 individuals were awaiting charges. Police had not concluded their investigation at that point, and noted that more people could be charged.
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Lasting Ramifications for Penn State Students
Though it would be easy to say that such behavior 'isn't Penn State,' all evidence points to the contrary. This wasn't the first riot in the school's history, though it was one of the most destructive. And as the police reports indicate, the vast majority of those charged in connection with the riots are students at Penn State. However, since Penn State is such a large school, there was plenty of pushback within the student body against the idea that students at the school are a thoughtless, violent horde. Unfortunately, though, the images from that night, which include an overturned news van, are now indelibly linked with the college.
It can be easy to get swept up in mob mentality, particularly at a time when emotions are running high and national attention is focused on your community. But if college students learn nothing else from the Penn State riots, they should realize that mob mentality is dangerous, particularly at that stage in life when you're laying a foundation for future success. The students charged in connection with the riots may be facing ramifications outside the court system as a result of their bad behavior - scholarships, financial aid, job prospects, family relations and leadership positions all can be put into jeopardy as a result of being charged with a crime in college. Though it can be tempting to get swept away on a social tide, and being surrounded by others may make you feel like there's safety in numbers, the Penn State riots prove that it's best for college students to think for themselves and stay away from an angry mob.
The controversy at Penn State may have discouraged some students who were thinking of applying for admission at that university.