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PLEASE STOP SAYING YOU’RE NOT SURPRISED

A START AT MICHIGAN STATE WOULD BE FIRING EVERYONE BUT THAT IS JUST A START

Rutgers v Michigan State Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Everyone involved with Michigan State athletics is going to be fired. This should happen—not just for the abject horror of the Larry Nassar scandal, but also for Michigan State’s long and now well-documented history of prioritizing the institution’s interests on the field and court over the well-being of its students and community.

It might have to happen at the college sports program you support. This would be necessary if that program has a history of instantly deferring to power at every opportunity, devaluing women, and above all else a need to protect institutions over people. Note: This potentially describes every athletics department, university, and organization on the planet. It could happen at your school. It may be happening right now.

The first point: If the initial reaction is to point out that Michigan State is unique, it’s not. This is how most universities and organizations would react. It is probably how yours would react, at least initially, because the institution’s first reflex is always the same: To save itself, almost always by turning against the individual of lowest status or least importance to the institution. It happened at Penn State, and at Baylor, and now at Michigan State, and it happened in varying but largely similar ways all the way up the management chain.

The second: please stop saying you’re not surprised, loudly and confidently, like this was something you expected. Like it’s going to make you feel better, like it was something that the lack of surprise can lessen, ameliorate, or dampen. Like it was something easily foreseen because of safe distance, because of being somewhere else at a remove. If the lesson of the past ten years or so has not been that there is nowhere to hide from this, then there has been no lesson whatsoever.

The third point is an extension of the second: Please stop saying it if you’re a man, especially. It only gives a minimal bit of comfort and to you only, and at best only an illusion of power over the situation, as if private suspicions left unvoiced until the moment of revelation mean anything. It is claiming that you knew the car was going to crash seconds after impact. It is the most useless, unwanted, and unproductive “I told you so” in the long history of that phrase.

Mostly it implies the worst of humanity’s worst shouldn’t horrify or surprise a bystander—when that’s what surprise, shock, and horror are there for in the first place. Taking away that feeling takes away their purpose in the first place. Shock, horror, and surprise are there to remind you that this is not okay. None of this can ever be considered okay.

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