Penn State Alum: Few 'Happy Valley' Memories Here

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Nekose Wills offers an iconoclastic account of being a black woman at Penn State, the football powerhouse hit by child sex-abuse allegations. She can't share the widespread lament for a community that never made her feel welcome or even safe.

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Dangers of Sports Glorification

Contact sports are obviously hard on the athletes, but more, by this point, should be understood about the dangers of unchecked sports glorification.

Someone named "Erica" left this reader comment on an AP story about the Penn State scandal: "Twenty years ago, the University of South Florida in Tampa covered up at least six sexual assault complaints against a star basketball player who was about to take the team to its first-ever NCAA tournament. In the most egregious case, the female victim of an alleged rape was encouraged to withdraw her complaint in order to stop the harassment she was suffering from members of the team and their friends. Her decision occurred in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, who oversaw both student discipline and the athletic department. The conversation took place over a coffee table that was a replica of the USF Bulls basketball court. The vice president would later say, wrongly, that she had "recanted." (I know all this because I was the St. Petersburg Times reporter who spent more than a year uncovering the story, with the help of concerned faculty members. My findings were confirmed by an official state investigation. [Check St. Pete Times archives on 12-8-91 and 1-25-92, among others.] )

I, meanwhile, know what I know about Penn State from the four years I spent there, earning a degree. Throughout my "Happy Valley" days I heard about and witnessed several disturbing incidents of discrimination and harassment against blacks, both verbal and physical.

One young man I knew was beaten up after visiting a few of my friends in the dorm. The two white attackers made it clear that, in their book, black folks were not welcome. The incident never made it into the Collegian, the State College local newspaper, or the police blotter.

The same way any talk and suspicion of child molestation was hushed up, so was this.

All of these memories have resurfaced after this recent scandal, making me cringe at stories casting the "incident" as a regrettable blow to Penn State's community identity. If you never truly felt welcomed or included, it's hard to see it as a place worth cherishing.


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Nekose Wills is passionate about living her life to the fullest. An activist, feminist, friend and non-conformist, she learns, educates, informs and entertains through her writing, one of her favorite forms of self-expression.

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