The devastating Freeh report on the Penn State University child sex abuse scandal makes clear that the problem at Penn State is not confined to a few individuals who chose to ignore child abuse rather than compromise the reputation of a money-making and money-generating football program. Rather Penn State has a cultural problem.
Penn State culture has centered on worship of its successful football program, to the point that everyone down to janitors understood that nothing would be allowed to threaten the image of that program and its future of inspiring donors and generating profits and wealth. Everyone who bought into that football-first, “We are Penn State” culture was an enabler of the continuing child abuse. That includes the alumni who promoted it and the students and faculty who profited from it.
So I’m not swayed by expressions of concern for the “innocent” football players, students, or faculty whose careers could be affected by the punishments which should be imposed on Penn State. They chose to buy into that culture, and they should be willing to bear the consequences of having done so.
If the situation described in the Freeh report doesn’t demonstrate the lack of institutional control over the Penn State football program warranting the “death penalty” for that program, which is within the powers of the National Collegiate Athletic Association to impose, what does? The failure of Penn State to voluntarily impose such a death penalty on its football program demonstrates its continuing state of denial and hope to avoid consequences for its failure of morals, culture and values.
And should Penn State be allowed to keep the football victories it won over many years while the sexual abuse of children was covered up to protect the football program? What kind of values does a decision like that uphold?
The criminal liabilities of Penn State’s leaders and former leaders who are still alive will become clear in due course. The determination of their and the university’s civil liabilities to the victims of child abuse which was tolerated by the university promises to be protracted and difficult. Where are the Penn State trustees and alumni willing to step-up and fund the (your name here) Child Sex Abuse Victims Compensation Fund?
The penalties imposed on Penn State for its money- and football-worshipping culture need to be sufficient both to break with its past, and to deter other institutions from pursuing the same goals with the same moral blindness. Does anyone think they will be?
Alternatively, Penn State University could be formally re-named Paterno Sandusky University (PSU). And then they can keep the statue.