A few days ago fellow Penn State alumnus Kevin Horne published an open letter to ESPN Great Shouter (I refuse to even call you a journalist or any other professional term based on your work) Keith Olbermann after Mr. Olbermann twice in one week labeled Penn State his “World’s Worst“. The Great Shouter was apparently upset that due process and the rule of law won out when the NCAA settled its suit with PA Senator Jake Corman (note to Keith, they did not settle with PSU, our Board is still trying to hide the true nature of this scandal and prefers to keep people like you focused on our Football Program) in his lawsuit over the NCAA consent decree. I won’t go in to detail how horribly wrong the shouter is on many facts, my fellow alumnus Mr. Horne has already done a fantastic job with that. I will simply ask The Great Shouter one simple question:
What have you done for abused children?
You see, anytime one of us very well informed and educated Penn Staters, those of us who have literally read every single word or page devoted to this Sandusky scandal; court transcripts, affidavits, depositions, expert reports, blogs, books, state statutes, child abuse reports, child abuse task force reports, opinion columns, witness interviews, IRS990s, financial disclosures (literally thousands upon thousands of total pages), and many more attempts to defend our school or football program we are met with “but what about the KIDS?!?!” So I find it instructive to compare our actions, not just words, Great Shouter, both before and after this scandal.
I will start foremost with myself. I am a fairly average college-educated person. Grew up in an upper middle class home outside of Philadelphia, received a B.S. from Penn State (my roots go back to the late 1920s when my grandfather began studying there) in 1999 (the same time Jerry Sandusky was ending his career there) with a degree in Biology (Genetics and Developmental), began working for a Pharmaceutical company, obtained my M.S. in Clinical Pharmacology at Thomas Jefferson University, am a sports and fitness junky, do fitness and wellness coaching as a side gig now, have a beautiful wife and soon to be 4 year old son. I am a lifetime member of what many of us joke is the “Penn State Cult”. Everyone I meet knows (jokingly) that being a member of the Penn State Community is in some ways like being in a cult. We have our traditions, our special calls to each other in public, a unique way of bonding as a community.
I admit prior to this scandal my contributions to child welfare were almost non-existent. Though my wife works in the autism/behavior field (she received her Applied Behavior Analysis degree online through Penn State as well, but attended West Chester and Widener Universities for her undergraduate and graduate work) and I did do some charity stuff with her here and there. Since the scandal though I have spent almost every free moment I have had researching this scandal, child abuse, state laws, task force reports, and other abuse cases. What I found horrifies me. Pennsylvania has a horrid system to protect abused children. Since then I have spoken with several experts to educate myself on how to deal with nice-guy offenders like Sandusky, and how we can better protect all kids in PA, and everywhere. I have penned LTEs, blogs, and letters to state officials highlighting problems and requesting that these services be improved. I do it for free, on my own time, and with all of my own resources, unless you count the collaboration with many (what have become I consider good friends) met online. Mostly I do it because I have a son who I hope grows up in a world where he can feel safe about these things.
Inside what we might call the “Sandusky scandal community” there are of course many others who have spent their own time in order to figure out both what happened, and how we can stop it from happening again. Ex-Penn State great Franco Harris has led the public charge to inform people about the true nature of this scandal. A group known as the SMSS Freehdom Fighters, headed up by Ray Blehar, Barry Bozeman, and Eileen Morgan, has created several websites and various reports and investigations detailing many many aspects of this scandal. Wisconsin-based alumnus Ryan Bagwell has dedicated much of his free time, and money, to fighting for public access to the documents surrounding the scandal. Jim Clemente (you may have heard of him) wrote a report, one that didn’t include a non-disclosure agreement (see Freeh, Louis for the opposite). Yes he was paid, though far less than Mr. Freeh. Mr. Clemente is a world-renowned child sexual abuse expert from the FBI’s behavioral analysis unit and worked with Ken Lanning. Who is Ken Lanning? Only this guy. Beyond this there are dozens of others that communicate with each other and do research and volunteer work, too many to possibly name them all.
Moving to the larger Penn State community, we can only being to scratch the surface. Most famously, for the last 41 years Penn State has developed what has become the largest student-run philanthropy on earth, THON. THON raised $13,343,517.33 last year, and more than $114, 000,000 in it’s long history, for pediatric cancer. Over 700 dancers spent almost two full days on their feet to help the most vulnerable of ours gain some hope in their darkest times. Beyond the most known effort of THON are of course dozens, if not hundreds of other groups and individuals working with many other causes that help children. Many large causes have sprung up from this scandal. Efforts like #PSUProudforRAINN and the well-known Penn State Blue Out which both benefit child abuse and sexual violence causes, directly related to the Sandusky scandal. Again these are just two of the more well-known causes to spring directly from the scandal. There are literally dozens upon dozens of other efforts to help children that the PSU community was involved in prior to, and continued after the scandal erupted.
Finally I come to some of the people, next to the victims of Sandusky, that were most directly affected by this scandal and seemingly at the top of The Great Shouter’s hate list; the Paterno Family. Of course it’s very well known within the Penn State community that Joe and Sue Paterno were fond of many charity causes, including those that helped kids, over their long life at Penn State. Sue Paterno has long been involved with the Special Olympics for many many years. Furthermore, the Paternos were of course both spiritual and academic leaders at Penn State. They donated their time and money, lots of it, to developing Penn State into a world-class academic institution (and library of course) from its humble beginnings as The Farmer’s College. They opened a spiritual center on campus. They funded the expansion of the Patee Library. Joe used his prowess after winning a National Championship to make academics stronger at Penn State, forever known as The Grand Experiment. They were a lifeblood of our community for decades, to both children and adults alike. Recently, as cataloged by The Great Shouter’s colleague Ivan Maisel at ESPN, the Paterno family has fought since this scandal to actually solve the problem of child abuse through a program called “Stop It Now!”. From Maisel:
Last spring, Stop It Now!, a Massachusetts-based non-profit that works to prevent child sexual abuse, began a pilot program with the 14 state universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) to train university employees who work with minors on campus on how to create safer conditions for children and prevent them from being victimized.
The 149 employees included administrators, faculty, counselors, athletic directors, legal counsel, communication director, students — basically, anyone who might deal with the summer camps that many schools host. They are trained to look for the signs of “nice-guy predators,” because that is the profile of the Sanduskys who prey on children. They appear to be respectable members of the community. They mentally seduce their peer adults. Then they seduce the children around them.
The news release said that Stop It Now! created the pilot program “through the generosity of a donor.” That donor is underwriting the $240,000 to fund the pilot program. That donor is Sue Paterno, Joe’s widow and the one-time matriarch of the entire Penn State community.
You will note that the press release did not tout who funded the program. That was Sue’s way. She wasn’t one to toot her own horn. Again, according to Maisel:
Call it what you will. But while the rest of us pointed fingers and debated and dithered and pulled out our righteous indignation, Sue Paterno tried to solve the problem.
So you see Great Shouter, while you may think our Penn State community (I won’t be offended if you call it a cult) is only concerned with the Paterno legacy, and the wins, and the football program, we are actually out here trying to solve the problem. Perhaps if you spent less time trying to emulate Craig Sager, and more time educating yourself you might know this.
Now in fairness to The Great Shouter, I do not know him or his personal charity work very well. Perhaps he does a lot of work with charity. Perhaps he does lots of work with abused children. That’s why I asked:
What have you done for abused children?
Can you answer me? Of course I tried doing some background research to see if I could find anything on your charity work. I found a few stories that you can read here, here, here and one that mentions St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital about some of your charitable donations. At least two of them seem to be stunts you performed on air (and thus further your own career). One mentioned some at-large column writing salary that would be partially donated to St. Judes. That seems to be the bulk of it. Perhaps in this time you have done other things? Perhaps you have educated yourself on child sexual abuse, have you? How much of your vast fortune you accumulated over the years have you donated to worthy child abuse causes? You certainly have means similar to the Paterno’s, so the question is, have you put up like they did, with time and a great deal of money?
You have recently turned down the opportunity to be educated on this scandal from several parties on twitter. You turned down challenges from Mr. Horne, Jay Paterno, and I guess the one I sent you to speak with Mr. Clemente. The question is, what are you so afraid of? The two possible outcomes are that you will learn much more about child abuse, or you will come out looking the victor when you vanquish them with your superior morals! Seem’s like a win-win to me. You could even plug your donations on air! Either way, I guess you will get to keep shouting.