Penn State Scandal Puts Morals into Question

November 17, 2011 Op-Eds, Opinion

“Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.”—H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

A devastating scandal has been brought to the public’s attention this month regarding Penn State’s former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky, 67, was arrested on 40 counts of sexual abuse. He allegedly molested at least eight young boys over the course of 15 years, beginning in 1994.

In 2002, an incident involving Sandusky and a boy in the showers of the Penn State football locker room was not properly reported. The wide receiver’s coach, Mike McQueary, a former Penn State football player, witnessed Sandusky molesting the boy and failed to intervene. The next day, he informed head coach Joe Paterno.

Paterno fulfilled his legal obligation by notifying athletic director Tim Curley and a vice president, Gary Schultz. The administration had knowledge of Sandusky’s sexual abuse, and still made no effort to notify the police.

As a result of the scandal’s being made public, Joe Paterno and Penn State University President Graham Spanier were fired for failing to report their knowledge to the police.

Rollins student Barry Buren ‘14 believes that “if the Board wants to clean house, they cannot only abruptly fire JoePa and Spanier. They need to clean all house, and not just who the media targets.” Although the media is focusing the story more on Paterno, the real monster here is Sandusky. He used his charitable foundation, The Second Mile, to lure young boys who later became targets of his abuse.

What do these revelations say about Paterno’s character? Legally, he followed through and did what was required of him, but morally he did not. In the span of one week, Paterno went from being a legend to a man whose inaction allowed untold additional kids to be sexually abused. Paterno was thought to be a man of character of the highest integrity. Jess Dabrowski, a junior at James Madison University, states “no matter how one may feel about Joe Paterno and any other administrators involved as individuals, they have to step back and ask themselves what’s worse, taking part in the wrong action, or standing aside and letting it happen.”

We have all been exposed to examples of this in our society, where bystanders watch horrible things happening right before their eyes and simply do nothing.

We have yet to hear Paterno’s entire side of the story, but he did say in one statement that he wishes he had done more. Nobody knows for sure
how one would react in the exact moment until he or she is in it.

Ashley Terr ’14 believes that “in the heat of the moment, one can make an incorrect judgment or action — but there has been much time after the
2002 incident where any of the administrators had a chance to speak up and chose not to.”

Innocent young boys were sexually abused and psychologically scarred by Sandusky, a man who had an excellent reputation and, in the public’s eye, appeared to be helping these troubled young boys. This action is typical of men involved in pedophilia, who put themselves in a position of authority with young boys in need.

Arlen Blakeman ‘15 stated, “Joe Paterno could have gott en his dog into Penn State! Now he was fired after 61 years, over the phone! A reputation that took a lifetime to build is now forever stained.”

The inaction and poor decision-making of the administrators who knew about the 2002 incident have ruined their own careers and shattered
their reputations.

Character plays the biggest role in this scandal. With no one speaking up to stop him, Sandusky was able to continue sexually abusing young boys.

This will be a weight that Paterno, Schultz, McQueary, Spanier and other insiders will have to carry with them forever. The Penn State community has had an exceedingly rough week, but it is trying to deal with the negative publicity by coming together and remaining faithful to the university with school spirit and a candlelit ceremony for the victims.

This scandal has a long way to go in the legal process, but for now, we should maintain our focus on the victims and pray for their well-being and future healing.

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