Your Letters on the Scandal
As a teenager, I wrote a “Dear Abby” style column for my high-school newspaper. I, the advice guru, would respond to “Stressed Senior” or “Perplexed Prom Date” with a witty, convenient solution to the problem in 300 words or less.
Truth be told, most of the letter writers were my friends, whom I’d convince to detail recent heartbreaks or college-rejection sagas for the student body’s reading pleasure. And my advice was mostly banal—Take a bubble bath! Call a friend!
More interesting, though, was the relief my friends seemed to find in just writing about their feelings. Despite my nagging to do so, expressing their emotions publicly provided a catharsis that even confiding in a best friend during study hall could not.
Today, I’m the letters editor at The Penn Stater. This means I’m responsible for organizing the manageable handful of compliments, criticisms, and occasional corrections we receive for the previous issue, and editing them for print. The methodical process has become an almost-soothing constant in the rushed weeks before deadline.
On Nov. 4, that, like everything else at Penn State, changed.
The letters came pouring in from the beginning, some so soon after the Patriot-News broke the story that I could only imagine letter writers typing the emails while juggling 15 open tabs in their browsers, just trying to keep up.
Alumni were heartbroken. Infuriated. Confused. For those first few days, letters flooded my inbox with subject lines so intensely emotional that I had to stop what I was doing and read each one on the spot.
Still, in the midst of the chaos, I tried to respond to each message with a short note, as I normally do, thanking the writer for expressing his or her point of view. But to these responses, I added one phrase that seemed necessary, and even from me, a non-Penn Stater and a one-year resident of State College, was true: “I understand.”
Though we could only print a portion of the letters we received, I hope all alums take a little solace in seeing the powerful emotion expressed in the next issue. And I hope you continue to send us your thoughts as Penn State makes sense of all this and, slowly, begins to heal.
As in high school, I can’t promise any meaningful advice. But I can listen, read, and understand what you’re feeling. Perhaps now more than ever.
Mary Murphy, associate editor