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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Do the Right Thing: Coming to Grips with the Penn State Debacle

<ecent media frenzy surrounding the Penn State sexual assault case raises a lot of serious questions about personal values and college culture that even we at a small school like Carleton should keep in mind.

For the uninitiated, two evenings ago Penn State’s Board of Trustees fired Joe Paterno, the legendary football coach with the most wins in NCAA D-I history and school president Graham Spanier. In 2002 a graduate student serving on Paterno’s staff witnessed Jerry Sandusky, previously Paterno’s defensive coordinator, engaging in anal intercourse with a 10-year-old child in the football team’s showers. After finding out about the event, Paterno, rather than reach out to police, fulfilled his minimum legal obligation of sending the issue along to his superiors. Paterno’s superiors, President Spanier included, collectively chose not to pass the matter on to police, presumably to protect their sacred football program’s reputation. Is there a common theme here?

Sure, Paterno and the administration were put in a tough position. After all, passing the case on to police would have risked tarnishing the football program’s shimmering name. But why are college football wins more important than the well-being of children or the university’s moral and legal responsibilities? Is merely fulfilling your minimal legal responsibility considered doing the right thing?

Upon receiving word of JoePa’s dismissal on Wednesday evening, a horde of Penn State students began violently rioting in the streets of State College. “Of course we’re going to riot,” Penn State engineering student Paul Howard told a New York Times reporter. “What do they expect when they tell us at 10 o’clock that they fired our football coach?” The backwards logic of these students underscores the larger-than-life football culture that led to this fiasco.

As news of the scandal spreads around the world, we are all presented with a decision. What do we do? How do we respond? What we shouldn’t do is focus on the questions that have been on the mind sof the national media and, from the way it seems, the Penn State community at large: How will Penn State’s football team rebound? Will more riots continue to plague State College?

These, we believe, are not the right questions to be asking right now.

What we need to do is what’s right. To some, this may be hard to discern, but we should be conscious of this disaster’s two main take-aways:

First, society must not have any tolerance for sexual abuse.
Second, recognize that what is getting lost in the shuffle here is the story of the individual victims. Where have they been in the news stories? Why are they so invisible? We should support the assault victims whose lives have been more affected than those of anyone else–yes, even Paterno and the rest of Nittany Nation.

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