Happy Valley: The Reality Check

Let's be very clear, straightaway: When someone tells you that they saw the abuse of child, you have an obligation to call the police. Maybe that is not your legal obligation. Maybe you can think that you can just tell your superior and then wash your hands of it because it's all you "had" to do. But then you have to live for the rest of your life knowing that you could have stopped the abuse of every child that came after that one. Maybe there are 8 in total. Maybe there are more. Maybe your fulfilling your legal obligation wasn't enough.

The scandal at The Pennsylvania State University over former Penn State defensive football coach Jerry Sandusky has erupted and enveloped the careers of former athletic director Tim Curley, former university vice president Gary Schultz, former university president Graham Spanier, and former football coach Joe Paterno. If this week's events are any indication, things will only get worse before they get better in Happy Valley.

As details emerged, Penn State officials soon learned that there was no longer a broom big enough, nor a rug wide enough, under which they could continue to sweep the actions of their former employee Sandusky and the culture of protectionism the university fostered, from it's athletic director to its vice president for finance to its university president, and, yes, even to the venerable Paterno. "The university is much larger than its athletic programs," says John Surma, vice chairman of the Board of Trustees for The Pennsylvania State University. There's a good portion of Penn Staters that are very much feeling otherwise this morning, the first full day that Penn State is without Joe Paterno.

There are victims in this crisis, and they are very real. But let's be clear that the victims are not named Curley, Schultz, Spanier, or Paterno. The victims are the eight, possibly more, young men who suffered from abuse. They are the ones that deserve the fervor of our support.

Higher education is a business, this is something I know all too well. And Penn State thought that protecting a brand, both the university's and Paterno's own personal legacy, were, for too many years, more important than the safety of young children. This course of action is reprehensible when you, as an institution, function in loco parentis for so many.

After the announcement of the firings of Spanier and Paterno were announced, Penn State had the chance to show what they are. The fact that the images that followed were ones of unrest and destruction... Over the loss of a football coach. If part of the problem at Penn State is a culture of protectionism, what are we to make of overturned news vans and broken car windows, acts perpetrated by angry students because an 84-year-old coach lost his job? How is there any way to not take a look at that man and see that he didn't do enough? When Penn State needed to speak volumes about it's character and integrity, many failed this important test through acts of destruction under the guise of blind faith to man who's character and integrity failed them, and who, by his own admission, should have done more when he had the chance. Their defense is that Paterno is a "good man" and has done so much good, generally to the tune of $4 million, for the university, and that he did "all he was supposed to do."

To that defense, I say this: What if it was your child? Would you, as a parent, be able to say "Oh, well, he did all that he was legally required to do."? Would you be able to say that, really? And would you be able to look in your child's eyes after? In saying that Paterno was a good man who did all he was legally required to do, you are discounting the reactions and experience of these victims and their families. You are saying that their pain, suffering, and treatment doesn't matter.

You're saying football, which is a game, is more important than the safety of a child.

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