'Justice Healing Caring' at Penn State

November, 11, 2011
11/11/11
4:55
PM ET


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Old Main was the first major structure on Penn State's campus, and as the school's central administrative nerve center, it has served as the focal point for many student-led protests and rallies all week.

Friday afternoon, a lone man sat on the steps of the building. Peter Buckland is a Ph.D. education student and State College native who went to high school with Mike McQueary and graduated with one of Jerry Sandusky's adopted children. Buckland bundled up against the cold while holding a sign that read, "Justice Healing Caring."

"We need an act of contrition," Buckland said. "We want to be healed and we want to heal other people. We're starting to say, 'What is the best thing that we can do for that?'"

Just as the unseasonably warm and sunny weather in State College from earlier in the week gave way to more winter-like temperatures in the 30s by Friday, so too has the mood around campus changed. The outrage that was directed at the administration and the anger from many surrounding coach Joe Paterno's firing has subsided. Beaver Canyon -- the downtown area where students flooded the streets for two nights and where the demonstrations turned violent Wednesday -- was quiet Thursday night, though police in riot gear kept vigil just in case.

[+] EnlargePeter Buckland
Brian Bennett/ESPN.com Peter Buckland stands with his sign at the Old Main on Penn State's campus on Friday.
In its 156-year history, the university's worst week, which began with the release of the grand jury report last Saturday morning, is drawing to an end. It will be a lot longer until the wounds from the Sandusky child-abuse scandal can finally close. But Penn State is now trying to move toward that healing.

"It's been an ever-changing mood, but now I think it's more that we realize we have to do something," said PSU junior Jeff Lowe, who has been camping out at the tent city called Paternoville in front of Beaver Stadium all week. "We can't be emotional and we can't be sad, because the only people who can be emotional are the victims of this. We have to do something for them."

A candlelight vigil on the lawn of Old Main was scheduled for Friday night, and organizers expected thousands to attend. Fans attending Saturday's Nebraska-Penn State football game are planning to wear blue, the color of child abuse prevention awareness.

A group of alumni started a website called ProudToBeAPennStater.com to help raise money for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). As of Friday afternoon, less than a full day since the site went up, the group said it had raised more than $131,000, with a goal of a half-million dollars.

On a smaller scale, four students stood outside the Hetzel Union Building on Friday asking for donations to support child-abuse prevention. After a couple of hours, they had filled two Tupperware containers with cash as people dropped off $5 or $10 bills on their way into the main student center.

"We wanted to show the nation that Penn State is still together as one and that we're going to get through this," one of the fundraisers, junior Ian Golden, said. "We are much more than what this event has portrayed of us."

For the school to truly get past this, it will need strong leadership. That's a situation in flux after a week that saw the ouster of school president Graham Spanier and the legendary, influential Paterno, plus the leave of absence for athletic director Tim Curley and retirement of senior administrator Gary Schultz as they fight felony perjury charges. The 48-member board of trustees has had to get actively involved, and the board has met in some shape or form for three straight days. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett was on campus the past two days.

On Friday, the board appointed trustee Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of pharmaceutical giant Merck, to head the special committee that will investigate all aspects of the child abuse scandal. Trustee chairman Steve Garban promised to give the committee any and all resources it needed and that a public report of its findings would be released.

“We are committed to restoring public trust in this university," Garban said before a packed ballroom at the Nittany Lion Inn.

The school can begin to restore some sanity at Saturday's football game with the nation watching. No one knows quite what to expect from the atmosphere or what might happen afterward, especially if the Nittany Lions lose. Trustee Joel Myers urged fans to "show a new high level of sportsmanship and civility and class" on Saturday and to applaud Nebraska when the Cornhuskers take the field.

"I'm just praying it doesn't get out of hand on Saturday," Ryan Simpson said. "That would be probably the worst thing we could do for our image. It's up to us as the current students to rebuild the image."

The hard work of that will be done after the satellite trucks and national reporters leave town. Focusing on the values of Buckland's sign "Justice Healing Caring" provides a good road map. As he finished up an interview with a reporter, a group of student singers gathered on the Old Main steps to sing the Penn State alma mater. While the line "May no act of ours bring shame" has been on the forefront of everyone's mind this week, there's another, earlier part of the song that may prove more crucial: "For the future that we wait."

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