Special Edition: Don’t Punish Penn State, Punish People

Penn State Brandywine © by Jim, the Photographer

I’ll admit upfront that the headline here is a bit of a linkbait, and that you are probably furious at me right now for having the gall to type such a sentence in light of the Freeh report that was released Thursday morning. We all know the horrific details of the Jerry Sandusky case, and I don’t really have the stomach to list out the rape of each child again. Besides, you’re still pissed at me for writing a headline suggesting Penn State shouldn’t be punished. Consider this for a moment.

Pennsylvania State  University didn’t rape those kids, nor did it cover anything up.

Did Penn State President Graham Spanier, Senior VP of Finance and Business Gary Schultz, Athletic Director Tim Curley, and Coach Joe Paterno (along with that monster, Sandusky himself), cover things up? Apply pressure to ensure the institution was protected? Absolutely. Joe Paterno has lost the respect of pretty much everyone in America, and his legacy isn’t tarnished. It is destroyed. These men are complicit in the destruction of the lives of each of Sandusky’s victims. They should all spend a long, long, long, time in prison.

The instant reaction I saw was fairly predictable. It ranged somewhere between burning Penn State to the ground and destroy all known records of its existence and nuking the institution and destroying all known records of its existence. That’s simply not acceptable. And I include the football program in this argument.

We’re talking about of five men that have defiled one of our country’s greatest institutions. Forget about athletics, PSU is one of the leading academic universities in America. Many people want to destroy what millions of people have helped build over the actions of FIVE people. There must be a strong response, but it MUST be targeted. Kill ’em all is simply a response of anger. Here’s what should happen:

  1. Penn State will have many lawsuits filed against it, as it should. It will attempt to pay for these with revenues derived from the athletic department. It should not be allowed to do that. Pay out of the endowment or whatever other streams of revenue PSU has access.
  2. Anyone with a role in the Sandusky scandal should be fired immediately and turned over to authorities. Period. Again, PEOPLE did this. NOT an institution.
  3. 30-40% of all revenue brought in by Penn State football should be given to charities that deal with sexual abuse/assault of children for the next 15 years. Some will see my opinion as letting PSU off the hook, this helps solve that issue.

As my friend Shelly Kramer points out, it’s likely that more than 5 people covered this up. That’s a very good possibility. To that, I would say each and every one of them need to be prosecuted. The fact that there are still thousands of people at Penn State who had zero part in this cover up lead me to believe that severe sanctions should be placed on PSU, but none that can absolutely cripple it. At that point, we’re punishing Penn State to make ourselves feel better as a society rather than targeting the punishment to where it is deserved. A message must be sent to all institutions of higher learning that they are ultimately responsible to the people they serve. Not to themselves.

There are sexual assault scandals at every university in America. I guarantee it. If we target punishment to individuals, anyone complicit in covering up other scandals at universities receives a much more important message. Your institution will be punished, but you will suffer. You will have your life ripped away from you the same way you’ve ripped away the lives of others. I agree that we need to send a strong message. Just make sure it’s being sent to the right people.