Tragedy at Penn State

10 Nov

It’s hard to fathom that one of the most respected coaches in history will never again be on the sidelines. But despite what some will say, the Penn State trustees made the right decision to fire Joe Paterno. His contributions to the university and the lives of so many people are immeasurable. But in his response to hearing an eyewitness account of a sexual crime against a child by a person he had known for decades, he failed. Yes, he did his legal duty by telling someone higher up in the food chain about it, but that was the extent. That was not enough.

For Penn State to keep Paterno on would pardon him for that lack of reaction, and that is something that should not be pardoned. Really, the university should disassociate from anyone in the program who knew this had happened and did not report it.

What is impossible to miss here is the systematic problem of policies that encourage people to pass the buck and handle issues in-house instead of calling the police. Why on earth would you call your boss if you see someone being raped? YOU CALL THE POLICE. This isn’t a breach of office rules; this is a crime. In this case, it’s a crime against a child, which is the worst possible kind.

The police should have been called immediately. The attack in 2002 that the graduate assistant walked in on should have been reported to authorities by the graduate assistant, or his father, or Paterno, or the administrators. The attack in 2000 that was seen by a janitor should have been reported by him, the people he told about it or his supervisor.

What bothers me most fundamentally, though, is this: No one physically stopped these attacks. Twice, people actually saw Jerry Sandusky in the act of raping children, and they did nothing. What if those boys saw those people approach while they were being raped, only to walk away? Can you imagine the feeling of abandonment, of embarrassment, of shame? Surely they would think, if another adult will not even confront this person or say what he did, how can I?

Now, with students rioting and rallying for Paterno to be brought back, it is as if what he did as a football coach is big enough to overshadow what he did not do in the case of one defenseless child. Yes, he achieved success in football without NCAA investigations. Yes, he donated millions to the university. Yes, he helped teenagers become upstanding men as they went through his football program. But to hear of a child being raped by someone you have known for decades and not report him to the police, much less still allow that person to be around the program? That’s inexcusable.

It’s a sick, sick, sick situation. So many people turned the other way. For all those who think Paterno or the others who let this get swept under the rug should still be coaching, you have to remember the kids. What if this was your son? Your brother? How would you feel about someone hurting him and no one having the courage to stop it or punish the person who did it?

You’d be devastated and mad as hell. And I guarantee this: you would not be thinking about football.

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2 Responses to “Tragedy at Penn State”

  1. mike wilson November 10, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    This should be required reading at Penn State. Well done.

    • Ashley Dunkak November 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

      Thank you. I appreciate that.

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