Then came the shock waves of the scandal. In its wake, troubling questions surfaced about not only the football program, but many unrelated aspects of the university. One of our greatest concerns was that supporters of highly successful campus-based charities like THON, the student-run philanthropy for pediatric-cancer research, and the emergency-loan fund would become collateral damage amid generalized anti-PSU sentiment. There were already many victims, whose needs must be addressed. But it would make no sense to create yet another class of casualties — including academically capable but financially failing students — as part of the fallout.
To the credit of many who seek no public recognition, THON and the loan fund — among countless others — carry on under difficult circumstances. Their issues have nothing to do with the seemingly endless debates over statues, wins and losses, TV revenue or names on the backs of football jerseys. Or how the tens of millions of dollars in newly earmarked funds for sexual-abuse victims should be distributed.
As the "hand in hand" design has now come to signify, the need for unity among alumni and other supporters has never been greater at Penn State. As the fall semester begins, it is worth recognizing the harsh reality that many students will not complete the term for purely financial reasons prompted when a death in the family and the cost of a plane ticket home is unaffordable, when a parent is laid off with household bills mounting or when government financial aid has been exhausted. With a price of $30,000 for in-state tuition, room, board and books, this has been a crisis that, understandably, has been overshadowed by the scandal.
We cannot immediately solve the many ills that came to light over the past several months at Penn State. But we know how a small but important difference is being made through the emergency student-loan fund — with more than $225,000 contributed — helped by sales of the "hand in hand" tapestry. It is truly a carpet of caring.
Tom Sharbaugh (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Steph Rosenfeld (email@example.com) are the founders of Penn State's student-emergency-loan fund.