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Friday, November 11, 2011

I Guess the Sky is Not Blue and White Today...

(The title today is taken from the punch line to the joke "Is God a Penn State Fan?")

I really haven't been following the Penn State story in too much detail over the last few days - there's really no need.  The story is one that's repeats routinely and often everywhere from politics to academia to business. 

And its an old story too.

I am writing today about Penn State because the events there have had a small and direct effect on me.  And this effect has given me pause for thought.

But first there must be full disclosure.

I am not a Penn State "fan" by any stretch of the imagination.  Though this blog is powered daily by coffee from a Penn State mug  (as seen at the top of the post) things are not what they might otherwise seem.  A child of mine attend Penn State and graduated from "main" (as its called) some years ago.

I funded this endeavor to avoid cursing my child with some $80K USD in debt upon graduation.  Good thing too.  As such I merely feel entitled to my share of related official bling from various annual pilgrimages: tee shirts, coffee mugs, etc.

Save for our home it was the largest amount of money I ever spent on one thing.

I have traveled up for game day in the past - but I am too old to sit in freezing bleachers, my feet surrounded by pools of undergraduate vomit.  It certainly is a spectacle to see.  There are RV's full of ancient (and no doubt retired) PSU fans parked around the stadium - license plates from all over the country.  There are road-side stands selling PSU "hoagies" miles from State College on all roads leading to to "Rome" (or perhaps the "Coliseum").

So, having disclosed all this, on to the meat of the issue.

My friend does an open mic every Thursday night.  I play in the "house band."  I was getting ready as usual - shower and then get dressed.  Gig wear is usually a tee shirt.

Last night I reached for one of my PSU shirts and my arm froze...


The other night I was at an open mic and PSU jokes are part of the show.  Maybe I ought not to wear this tonight...  (Now I have all kinds of funky tee shirts for gigs, ones from Hawaii, old bands, etc. but never, I repeat never, have I had to worry about a shirt associated with a scandal like this...)

I didn't wear the PSU shirt.  And, sure enough, at the gig the topic came up...  Jokes and heads shaking.

I believe that the tragedy here is far, far larger than portrayed by the media.  Certainly there will be more heads rolling at PSU related to it. 

But that's not the point of this blog post...

More history...

I have had a variety of associations with "academics" over the years.  My parents had "professors" who were friends when I was a child.  I myself when to the big state university where I encountered all sorts of academics (this was mid 1970's).

At the time there was (and still is nearly forty (count'm '4' '0') years later) a standing joke that though being a teaching assistant (TA - or whatever your big 'U' calls them) or young professor paid "shit" the real benefit was the coeds, i.e., young girls.

Young girls (TA's all knew about the "age of consent" both in my home state as well as in other states I lived in over the years) who were in need of a "better grade" on a test or for the semester.

These were not isolated incidents...  and I am not a college graduate.  This is just personal, anecdotal observation with the briefest of encounters with "academia."

In later years I worked for a number of "academics" that had moved into the "real world."

The attitude toward "coeds" was the same...

I recall working on some project involving gambling machines.  We went to visit the stat prof's house where the machine was installed.  Sure enough there was his latest buxom "coed" - upstairs waiting for the meeting and technical analysis to complete.

There was another situation where a "coed" of interest was known to be "under age" - this caused quite a bit of concern in subsequent years by the TAs I knew as they counted the years involved in the "statute of limitations."

I personally saw enough to convince me that part of the "academic lifestyle" involved ready access to will "coeds."

Back to PSU...

This particular case is different in that it involved some other elements - but then again this is modern times.

The real issue, though, is that the model of those "in power" over those "not in power" using their position for personal sexual conquest is heavily engrained the academic world.

The age of consent across the country is basically 18 years of age.

Many coeds arrive at college before their 18th birthday.

An then there is the issue of those "in power" lording it over those not - why is this somehow "okay" in an academic environment when those "not in power" are "of age"?  Is it not the job of the coed to be gaining an education?

And that's my real point in all of this.

In business its not okay for someone in charge of, say, hiring, to make advances with someone looking for a job.

Why is it okay for academics to require sexual favors in order to advance grades?

Why is this not given more scrutiny by the government, the press, anyone?

While the "lid" at PSU may have been blown off I doubt this event has enough strength to blow the lid off the real problem - the fact that this behavior is firmly entrenched at virtually all big colleges and universities.

You can see this on TV today - accusers suggesting that a job was to be traded for sexual favors.

But no one ever sees this on TV from the local U.

Will this event have enough "legs" to call out the real problem?

I think the date November 10th, 2011 (the date of Paterno's firing) should be considered "National Out Abusive Academic's Day."

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