My Corner of Penn State

The Lion Shrine at Penn State.
The Lion Shrine at Penn State. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Grand jury investigation. Sandusky. Indictments for Curley and Schultz. Spanier resigns. JoePa has lung cancer. Says he should have done more. JoePa dies in January. Sandusky trial. Guilty on 45 of 48 counts and imprisoned without bail. The Freeh Report implicates JoePa as preventing administrators from going to authorities. No care for victims. JoePa’s statue comes down. Severe NCAA sanctions for Penn State football team.

I work at a branch, or Commonwealth, campus of Penn State. With each sentence I typed above, I felt the weight of these incidents grow heavier in my mind and my heart. All of that occurred within the last 8 months….it’s a lot to take in, regardless of your association with Penn State. But for those of us who work here, it’s difficult because we are living with the far-reaching consequences of a few men’s actions….or inactions.

I’ve worked at Penn State since 2007 and I really enjoy my work and usually look forward to going to work. I work at a campus that is considered one of the most beautiful campuses in Penn State. We have a well-stocked greenhouse on our campus and plenty of open fields that are constantly used for developing and testing by horticulture faculty and majors. I work in a restored farmhouse that belonged to the family who donated much of the property on which we are situated. Each morning I enter the farmhouse down a stone walkway that is lined with a colorful display of annual and perennial flowers. Often butterflies float back and forth across the walkway. It’s really quite an oasis on the campus.

The men and women who maintain our property are knowledgeable about landscaping, property maintenance, and equipment use and repair. They work hard to make our campus a place you want to enjoy as much outside as inside. I’m thankful for those who do this work.

Speaking of inside, we have a superb group of administrators and staff that keep all aspects of our campus running smoothly and faculty from around the world who give individual attention to our students and create many opportunities for learning, research, and internships. Many students who initially plan to come here for two years and then finish their education at the main campus of PSU end up staying at our campus all four years if they can complete their major here.

Our campus is large enough to offer far-reaching and stretching opportunities for students, but small enough that most of the faculty and staff know each other well, and really care about one another’s’ lives. We offer that same care and concern for the students who come here, too. It’s similar to a very large extended family, warts and all. We just say goodbye to each other at the end of each work day.

With each news report or press conference that gives breaking news about “the next shoe to drop” at Penn State, we all hold our breath, wondering how this will affect our daily work. What new policy may come out next as a result, resulting in additional security or procedures that must be put into place? In the last 6 weeks or so, about a half-dozen new Penn State policies have gone into effect. One of the most notable are a new background check policy that includes student employees for the first time, drastically increasing the workload of many HR personnel. Another notable policy severely limits access to athletic facilities.

So, it’s a new “ballgame” at PSU (no pun intended). More thought and time is required before certain plans can be put into place. More employees are concerned about how they are documenting or handling various transactions or procedures, as none of us want to violate any of the policies or have our names in a Freeh report. Last week, I had nausea for about 4-5 days. I thought it was some Mexican food I ate, but I finally realized it was the internal stress I was subconsciously feeling about all these changes. After the NCAA sanctions last Monday, I had to do a news blackout for self-preservation. If friends tried to talk about Penn State, I firmly but politely asked them if we could discuss something else. It may be interesting for you to talk with someone who works at Penn State to get our viewpoint, or to even vent with us, but, frankly, this employee is sick of talking about it.

Well, you are probably feeling quite glum by now reading this, but the real point of this post is to let you now that I, for one, still enjoy working at Penn State. I am proud to say that I work at Penn State and I’m grateful to God for the work He has given me to do there. I believe the majority of the faculty and staff feel the same  and are looking forward to beginning the fall semester. So, to the students, we say, “Bring it on!”

Overall, I hope we don’t overlook one of the main lessons we can learn from this difficult trial that Penn State is moving through. ALL actions have consequences. We don’t live and act in a vacuum. The sins of one man–Sandusky–affected and destroyed quite a few young men’s lives But his actions affected many others, too. The alleged actions/inactions of several other men resulted in a huge fall from grace, prestige, and security, and severely changed lives for their families. But their actions affected many others, too. The NCAA sanctions present significant challenges to Bill O’Brien and the football program and changed their lives. But this action also affects many others, too.

So the next time you are at a crossroads, and have a choice to make between right or wrong actions, good or evil, words that build up or tear down, selfishness or service, ask God to give you the strength to choose  the former…right actions, good, words that build up, service. These are the choices that most of us who work, teach, or learn at Penn State make every day.


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