Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NOT for credit, just community: thoughts about Penn State? (BUMPED)

[It's receded from the headlines, but the repercussions continue to ripple, so I'm bumping this up....]

It's been on my mind a lot these days.  In fact, we ended up talking about it for the first ten minutes of my other class on Thursday (which meets after ours--so I'd gotten caught up on the news over lunch).   Here's a space to offer your reflections, if you would like.  Keep it collegial.


  1. In all honesty I have so many conflicting thoughts on this whole thing I could write a term paper on it, but the one that resonates most strongly for me I have to say is Penn State's colossal mishandling of Paterno's firing.

    When a guy dedicates six decades of service to anything, be it a school or a service or a person, you don't terminate your association with him in the form of a phone call. That simply blew my mind, but really it was just the tip of the iceberg.

    In my opinion, when Paterno announced he'd retire at season's end, that should've been good enough for the administration. Instead, not only do they kick the guy to the curb in a 2 minute phone call, but they have the gall to keep Mike McQueary - the guy who witnessed the crime take place, and did nothing for a full 24 hours but run crying to his dad - on staff. What's astounding to me is that McQueary, in not reporting what he saw to police immediately, is the only one (aside from Sandusky, the guy who was committing the rape) who actually committed a crime here. And after the backlash following Paterno's firing but no change to the status of McQueary, PSU elects to simply put him on paid leave. Truly unbelievable.

    It's important to note that even with the grand jury transcript, what was made known to Paterno is still very unclear. The reports concerning what he was informed range anywhere from to "I watched this man rape a young boy in a shower" to "Oh there was some horseplay going on, could be something to look into, maybe, maybe not." Assuming it's somewhere in the middle, Paterno did exactly what is required not only by his own moral code and the standard of Penn State, and that's immediately report it to his own authorities. Did he call the police? No he didn't, but based on circumstance, he wasn't required to. And because we don't know exactly what he was informed of, it's logical to assume that given Paterno's extensive track record of strong moral fiber, that there was no reason for him to pick up a phone and dial 911. I firmly believe that if McQueary had come to him and asserted with full belief that "Hey, this is what I saw, it happened, I'm sure of it" that Paterno would've immediately gone to the police. What kind of man Joe Paterno is in regards to integrity never has, and despite this incident, never should really be in question.

    There are simply too many unknowns for Penn State to have done what they did. It essentially boils down to them turning their back on a man without whom, they'd have next to no national notoriety whatsoever. All the while staying true to another man in McQueary who at this point is little more than the face of cowardice and in all honesty, should be the secondary villain to Sandusky in this whole mess. If you know what you saw, you pick up the phone and you dial 911 immediately. You don't run home to your dad and talk about what to do.

    Having said all that, I want to also make clear that I of course acknowledge that Paterno could've done more, which he also is more than willing to publicly concede. But what he "could've done" isn't grounds for a firing - not with the amount of unknowns that are present in this particular case, not for a man who single-handedly brought not just your football program but your entire university to national relevance over the course of six decades, and most importantly, certainly not in the fashion in which Penn State carried out the termination.

  2. I made this exact argument the other day to someone - point for point. I completely agree with Patrick. I've heard that the board of trustees has been looking for reasons to fire Paterno since 2004, and this was their first true shot.

    One of the many things that disappoints me about this situation is the reaction of the fans/students at Penn State. Their protest wasn't unfounded, but it was done for the wrong reasons in my opinion. Listening to some of the interviews on the news, people think that JoePa's legendary status should have granted him some kind of immunity. I am personally conflicted on the topic of his firing, but I can see the board of trustees' point if they were going to fire him based off of a moral standpoint. However, like Patrick said, he was fired based on a speculation of what he knew. This led to speculation of his legal/moral responsibility. This COULD be grounds for firing, but I believe that someone who's image of integrity is/was as clean as JoePa's was should be given the ability to resign on his own reasonable terms.

    As far as the protests, most people wanted JoePa to remain the coach solely because of his name. They were protesting his actual firing, not the circumstances that were speculation at best. I am trying to find a reason to give the students more credit than I am however. I hope the protests were about the way he was fired, as Patrick outlined above. This was disrespectful, and not the way to treat an employee who has given his all to the university for over 60 years.

    I think that if he was going to get fired, then everyone who knew anything of the situation should have been fired - especially McQueary. I find it hard to believe that this news made it from McQueary to JoePa to the University President without anyone else taking any responsibility. Just a personal opinion, but I think some of the trustees themselves were informed of the incident a long time ago. They were fine sweeping it under the rug until it came up in the media and threatened their own images. They needed a fall guy, and JoePa was it. He is always in the public eye, and they wanted him gone so he was the perfect choice.

    I believe that the entire situation has distracted the media from the real issue - the children. This was handled the wrong way by Penn State, and has become much more of a distraction than an actual news story. I feel badly for those abused, and think the media needs to change the way they present this story so that they can focus on the real issue - not just the one in the college football world.