Remember when you were in school and that one kid acted up while the teacher’s back was turned. There was an eruption of laughter and the teacher spun around too late to witness the offense. In frustration the teacher announces, “Alright, unless whoever is responsible for this steps forward, all of you will miss recess today.” Immediately and anxious quiet descends across the room and the teacher’s pet speaks up saying, “wait, that’s not fair, why should all of us suffer because of one person?”
Penn State handed out and was handed punishments this week for the behavior of Jerry Sandusky and the other participants in the sexual abuse scandal. The Penn State nation is being punished for the behavior and actions of a few. There is no argument that penalties and consequences are absolute in this case. However, there appears to have been little time given to careful consideration of the outcomes in the grand scheme. Instead, so called justice was dealt out as quickly as possible so the Penn State community and culture may go back to being “normal”. After all this is just a as if this is something that rarely happens. It reflects panic not wisdom.
Penn State, like every other academic institution aspires to be in existence to educate and prepare adolescents for future roles in society. Every school is founded with an academic mission. Extracurricular programs are just that, extra. So eliminating one, let’s say football, would not be a violation of the mission of the institution. It appears neither the NCAA nor Penn State University understand the essence of abuse. The court system has spoken and Jerry Sandusky received what he justly deserves, life in prison. Beyond that there are consequences for those that covered up. The administrators lost their occupations, maybe forever. Jerry Sandusky’s family will live in disgrace the rest of their lives. Joe Paterno’s legacy is tarnished and his family left searching for answers and grace.
Penn State chose to go further in erasing football records for an arbitrary number of games and years. How does erasing the football records of Joe Paterno provide restitution? Joe Paternos disgrace is more than punishment enough. Removing his records is a momentary effort to deflect the shame from the University. If the University and the NCAA were serious about addressing and advocating for a long term awareness of abuse then eliminating the football program going forward is a more sound solution.
Four years of sanctions and millions of dollars will be forgotten quickly. New generations will come and go from Penn State. The football program will return. But, if in moving forward the University eliminated football, there would forever be a reminder that childhood sexual abuse is an offense the institution will never tolerate again. That would demand courage.
Penn State could use this moment in time to lead the country in awareness and prevention of a plague that has and continues to ruin the lives of millions every single day. Instead, it appears they wish to get by this as quickly as possible, give the survivors some compensation, make some public admissions of guilt and move on. That has been the process and protocol forever. If the perpetrators and survivors will have to live with the dysfunction of abuse the rest of their lives, why shouldn’t the University as well?