Jerry Sandusky is a child rapist whose target of choice was young boys, and who for years used his affiliation with Penn State and his access to that university’s events and facilities both to seduce his underage victims and as a frequent staging ground for his criminal behavior. Joe Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier–the two most important authorities at the university–had for years been aware of Sandusky’s behavior, but apart from asking him not to bring his young boys onto campus, they turned a blind eye and did nothing.
To read the Pennsylvania Statewide Grand Jury’s findings in this enraging case is to understand that the term “child molester” is too dainty an epithet for Sandusky, and that Paterno and Spanier were not fired soon enough (read the full report, here).
But to watch hundreds of Penn State students riot in protest over Paterno’s firing is to wonder, on a far grander scale, whether the university, as an institution of higher learning, has spent enough time and effort promoting values more lofty than success on a football field.
Everything about this story is damning. Nothing about it is redeeming. Despicably criminal acts are committed against young children, yet no one in authority–no one–does the right thing. Apparently, for those in top leadership at Penn State, avoiding any disruption of, or embarrassment to, the football program trumps the reporting of sex crimes against minors to police authorities.
Indeed, for those in charge at Penn State–for those tasked with setting standards and leading by example–football, apparently, is value number one.
Which explains not only how Penn State finds itself in this disgusting mess–and why some students thought it appropriate to riot over Paterno’s firing rather than over his conduct–but also why the tone-deaf “Joe Pa” had the temerity, after uttering his empty and much-too-late words of contrition earlier this week, to assume he’d be allowed to coach one more game.
Football. For some in and around the State College campus, that’s what Penn State stands for. Above all else: Football. No surprise that such a perverse reordering of traditional academic values could produce such a perverse result.