It’s not a hard concept. If you go to Penn State, if you went to Penn State, if you teach at Penn State or work at Penn State, your actions will reflect on the university. The closer the affiliation, the more the reflected glory, or the reverse.
Penn State is not, despite the Internet wits, the state pen. No one is sentenced to wear blue and white. Going to class isn’t community service. It’s a great school for a lot of majors, with a long history that, for many, may be a family tradition.
President Eric Barron talks about the number of students who are the first in their family to attend college. For them, having a Penn State degree may be less about tradition than aspiration.
But however one ended up walking through the doors, it was a choice.
People do stupid things, particularly in college. There was a class that I missed entirely because of pinball. Weeks and weeks of pinball. Tell me that makes any sense, but hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
But when you get here, it’s supposed to be about learning what things were too stupid for words and not repeating them. In my experience, your likelihood to get blind drunk was in direct proportion to whether you were legally allowed to get blind drunk if you wanted and whether you had done it enough times to realize, “Hey, I have no idea where I am or what day it is. Am I supposed to be in class right now? What was I thinking?”
That’s my heart, and on the one hand, right now, it’s broken that, once again, I am covering a story about a connection to my school that, if true, is horrible and shameful.
But my heart is also warmed by the responses. Even as the investigations are ongoing, so are the conversations about how we stop bad things from happening again.
Yes, I know it’s out of order, but I need to talk about the future now.
I want for a future where “college fun” and “criminal behavior” aren’t synonyms. I wait for a future where everyone who decides to come to college does it while thinking of what comes next and have that not be a shot of vodka. I wait for a future where everyone has common sense and common decency.
It’s likely to be a long wait, I know.