Monthly Archives: July 2016

Reading the Sandusky Controversy (legal documents)

This is by no means an exhaustive list of reading material, nor will I pretend that I’ve got every single detail explained as it should be. This is a very complicated story that is constantly evolving, and as we’ve discussed in class, my lens will be different than someone else’s. That’s why I will mostly stick to documents that are central to the legal cases.

On November 5, 2011, Jerry Sandusky was arrested based on the findings of a Grand Jury which is detailed in this Presentment.

The Penn State Board of Trustees asked former FBI director, Louis Freeh to independently investigate Penn State’s actions in all aspects of the Jerry Sandusky case. In July of 2012, The Freeh Report was made public.

On July 23, 2012, The NCAA imposed sanctions on the Penn State Football Program.

There were significant consequences for Penn State as an institution and for numerous individuals as a result of the three reports I noted above, but you can find all of those news pieces anywhere. What you won’t often find are people who have read all of the words in those documents. As scholars of civic life, I’m challenging you to do research when you’re faced with a controversy–especially one as crucial to civic life as this one.

I can’t remember who asked questions about the most recent statement released by Penn State and President Barron to which I think I responded with some frustration. It wasn’t about you guys–there are just so many ins and outs to this case that I can barely keep up and I’m watching pretty closely. Let me try to explain the most recent legal situation that’s directly connected to Sandusky and Paterno. Remember that I’m not a legal scholar and that I’m trying to keep the explanation brief.

Over the last few years, Penn State has paid over $90 million in civil settlements to more than 30 victims. These cases have, of course, been kept out of the media and settled very quickly. Penn State, however, has been in court battles with its insurance company over who should cover the costs of the settlements. On July 12, the judge in the insurance company (PMA) vs. Penn State case unsealed documents revealing much more testimony about Jerry Sandusky that many are saying is damning to Joe Paterno, several other coaches, and university officials.

Take a look and see what you think.

“Tell Me I’m Fat”

I listened to a great episode of This American Life a few weeks ago about rethinking the way we see and talk about fat. The episode is bookended by an interview with the writer and fantastic personality, Lindy West.

After watching the introduction to Supersize Me, I wonder if there’s a way these conversations might merge, change, or become more nuanced if we hear more voices like West’s?

Oh, and one more thing: have you noticed that stories about obesity always have clips of obese people with their heads missing?

Final Thoughts on Paradigm Shift

I’m sharing some excerpts of a blog post I wrote for my Fall 2015 RCL students after I graded their Paradigm Shift papers. It was a way for me to point out some of the common errors I was seeing. I’d recommend looking through this post when you’re doing your final revisions. Here’s some of what I wrote:


First, citation. Lots of you did far fewer in-text citations than you should have if you did them at all. An in-text citation is where you indicate in the body of your paper that you’ve used outside research (or someone else’s ideas, etc.) in a particular place. This shouldn’t be new to you as you’ve certainly seen your sources citing their sources. Any academic article or book is generally littered with in-text citations. Even Wikipedia requires in-text citations. Wikipedia’s in-text citations come in the form of end notes (note the clickable numbers at the end of some sentences–they designate that an outside source was used). The Purdue Owl (a resource which I have adamantly endorsed throughout the semester) has a reasonably thorough explanation of in-text citations in MLA style (standard style for English papers).  In the world outside of this class, a lack of citations would mean that you’ve unintentionally plagiarized. I can see the difference between taking someone’s work with the intention of passing it off as your own and not knowing exactly how to do your citations, but it’s my job to teach writing. Another professor whose job is to worry about other things might not care about the distinction between unintentional and intentional and I do not want you to get into trouble down the line.

Second, style. I’ve seen your blogs and know that your writing is, almost without exception, clear and readable. I think what happens when students write a Very Serious Academic Paper is a lapse into Very Important Serious Language. This makes sense, of course. Why wouldn’t you write in a way that suits the assignment? You guys are trying on college-level writing for the first time, regardless of your high school experiences. Some of you have had great writing training, but you haven’t been writing papers at Penn State and it’s not easy work. What I often see happening for new college writers is a kind of writing that gets a bit tangled and confused as it tries on fancier clothing. Clarity is sometimes lost in favor of “sounding smart.” If you think I never struggled with that exact writing problem…ha! I know lots of people who have PhD’s and still haven’t mastered the art of clarity because they’re lost in tangled jargon. The master of everything you are doing should be clarity. If your writing isn’t clear, you might as well whistle your paper to me–that’s how well I’ll understand it. I’ve found a fantastic, thorough overview of common style issues from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Please read every word of it. It’s all worth looking at even if you’re already a brilliant writer.


Hopefully this is helpful stuff. I have two other recommendations that students usually toss aside, but they’re absolutely brilliant ideas (if I do say so myself).

  1. Use your classmates’ skills. You are working in a group of very smart, articulate students. Have them (ruthlessly) read through your writing. Ask them to read each sentence separately to see if it makes sense. Often when we’re writing, the stuff in our heads makes perfect sense and we think it will make perfect sense when we plop it out onto the paper. But as you know, sometimes our brains aren’t the clearest. Have your pals tell you when your thoughts are jumbled and ask if they’ll help you clear them up.
  2. Talk it out. There are two pieces to this suggestion, both of which I’ve actually done with students and they seem to work immediately.  A) Tell a classmate what you want to say. Try this for a piece of your paper that you just can’t get right or (even better) for your thesis. I love to ask students to tell me what their paper is about without looking at their paper. It’s amazing how often students will articulate something different than what’s written as their thesis. Trust what comes out of your mouth in those moments and don’t get so attached to what you’ve written that you can’t revise and make your thoughts clearer. B) Read each sentence aloud. Each. One. And pause in between. The idea is that your ears may catch something weird in the writing that your eyes may not have picked up. Even better, have a pal read each of your sentences to you. Someone else’s voice may highlight even more strongly what you didn’t see the first time around.

Finally, all of these tasks require giving yourself time and space with a piece of writing. You may not feel like you have a ton of it right now, but do your best and save these tips for the writing you’ll surely be doing in the future. Good luck!