Thursday, November 10, 2011

College Spirit

I heard helicopters hovering over Cal's nearby campus late into the night, as police used force to prevent students from setting up an Occupy encampment, as part of a day of action to protest the need for greater public funding of higher education across the state.  Not to be too smug, but this presented quite a contrast to the ruckus at Penn State.  Students there protested, some violently, because their beloved football coach, Joe Paterno, was fired for his shameful inaction in response to the sexual assaults committed by his former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky.

The outrage at Penn State for not providing the legendary Paterno with a more dignified exit is remarkably misplaced.  Sandusky is alleged to have sexually abused eight boys over a 15-year span.  Paterno learned of one such assault in the football building's showers in 2002, and essentially did nothing.  As Amy Davidson says, "for almost a decade afterward, Paterno watched as Sandusky continued capitalizing on Penn State’s name, and Paterno’s, to gain access to children.  If Paterno didn’t feel that that robbed him of his dignity—a word that shouldn’t be confused with public reputation—then what could."

Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress provides the right perspective:

Joe Paterno’s right to his dignity is not more valuable than the right of children not to be assaulted by adults.
Joe Paterno’s right to employment if he can’t perform up to standards is not more important than the right of Penn State to run a safe campus.
If Joe Paterno’s highest priority is truly providing quality education, his loyalty to those values should have been higher than his loyalty to a man whose conduct represents a hideous rot in those values. You only stand for what you say you represent if you stand for it when it’s hard.
I cannot possibly imagine a cause so mighty and righteous that it outweighs shrugging aside child abuse and child assault. Certainly not football. College sports may be a business with deeply engaged consumers. But it’s still just a business. And Joe Paterno is just a man, subject to the normal rules of accountability and decency. These are the basic facts of which moral educations are made. Some of us, apparently, need remedial lessons. 


Anonymous said...

Back in '09, when Northwestern University had a coach that wasn't being above board, the athletic director ended the whole football program. If people are interested only in the sports programs and not education, ending the football program might be a good place to start in reversing the "dumbing down of America". Here is the NY Times story link:

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