UNIVERSITY PARK — Fewer images of Joe Paterno, more talk about the NCAA — and a rising resolve to make the best of it.
That sums up what Penn State students said they noticed this week as the fall semester began after a turbulent summer: Jerry Sandusky’s conviction on child sexual abuse charges, removal of the Joe Paterno statue and stiff punishments from the NCAA because of the scandal.
“Many of us would agree that our pride has been shaken,” said Phil Sundin, a junior from Erie. “But when something is broken, it is built to be stronger.”
Sundin said he feels a personal responsibility to help strengthen the university’s reputation, not only by supporting the football team but also by touting its research, academics and student organizations.
Some students said they were just happy to be back on campus after seeing their university frequently in the news.
“I worked the entire summer back home in north Jersey, and there was a week straight where Penn State was always on the news every single morning, and my family and friends would constantly ask me questions,” said Margarita Romero, a junior majoring in criminal law and justice.
Senior Brittany Borgman, a supply chain major, said she watched the sanctions announcement at her internship.
“We ran into the conference room right at 9 (a.m.) to watch them,” she said. “I think I was just in a state of shock the rest of the day. I couldn’t get anything done.”
Sean Sweeney, a sophomore in aerospace engineering, said he was working at a golf course when he learned of the sanctions via Twitter.
“We all knew they were coming,” said Sweeney, who worked with a few fellow Penn Staters. “It was nice to be with people who understood each other’s pain. We loathed together, and a lot of bad golf was played.”
“I hated being away, and I wanted to come back all summer, especially when they were taking down the JoePa statue,” said Brian Matthews, a senior in accounting. “I don’t think it’s fair what happened, but there’s not much we can do about it now.”
Students have noticed that more than Paterno’s statue is gone.
Large photographs and other images of the late coach had disappeared from some buildings, including the HUB student center and the Carnegie Building, home of the College of Communications. The name of a HUB sandwich shop was changed from Joegie’s to HUB Subs.
“I hate that they took down the statue, but it’s understandable to some extent,” said Holly Przybylowski. “However, I think they took it too far with changing the sandwich place name and other stuff I’ve seen.”
Other students said they were just going to look ahead, first to today’s game against Ohio University, and then beyond.
“It’s more about the atmosphere than anything,” Penn State junior Brooke Berte said about the football games. “It’s something to do. It’s a way to see people.”
“I think everything will remain the same in terms of how we go about the games,” sophomore Greg Joy said. “For us, in school, nothing changed.”
Nico Izzi, a freshman from Springfield, N.J., said he thought the NCAA’s punishments were too harsh. But he said he made his decision to come to Penn State based on the academics it offered and the many clubs and organizations with which he could get involved.
Izzi said he thinks the semester is a “start of a new era, one that is more of a family, one community, all of whom carry a lot of pride with them.”
Alyssa Curnow, Megan Flood, Steven Petrella, Carly Schaller and Kimberly Valarezo are Penn State journalism students.