Remember that kid in kindergarten who always chimed in with irrelevant facts when someone else got in trouble? If a student spilled his milk, this is the one who yelled “And he broke my pencil last week!” If someone forgot their homework, this is the one who said “And she threw the ball too hard at recess!”
That kid grew up to be Vicky Triponey.
A former vice president of student affairs at Penn State, Triponey butted heads several times with football coach Joe Paterno over how to discipline players. Despite having left the university in 2007, Triponey held on to a series of email exchanges that demonstrates the power struggle she had with administration. The emails don’t paint a rosy picture of the relationship between Joe Paterno and Triponey. Although Triponey has no ongoing association with Penn State and has no connection with the recent scandal, she's sent those emails, some going back more than five years, to the Wall Street Journal this week.
The problem is, of course, that her story is one-sided. None of the people who were involved in these exchanges, including former Penn State President Graham Spanier and Athletic Director Tim Curley, can comment on the situation because they are consumed with other, more pressing issues. Paterno’s lawyer released a statement saying that these emails were “out of context” and “misleading.”
He’s right. There are two sides, sometimes more, to every story. What most of the news articles about Triponey leave out is that many members of Penn State’s staff and administration struggled with her and had a general feeling of distrust in their dealings with her. One student group posted a “Vicky Triponey Timeline of Terror” on their website and her public problems with many campus groups were well-documented, especially after her sudden resignation.
Whether Triponey is justified in her assessment of Paterno and the football program is irrelevant. Instead, she simply shows up now to grab headlines and add to the media frenzy around Paterno. Onward State was correct in calling out the Wall Street Journal for this sensationalist reporting. Just because Triponey has something to say doesn’t mean that it deserves attention. In fact, the only thing Triponey seems to have accomplished is to take focus away from what really matters—the victims.