A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Friday, July 13, 2012

My Thoughts on Penn State Moving Forward

After reading through the Freeh's report regarding the sex abuse cover-up over the past several years at Penn State University, here are some of my thoughts in moving forward:

First, the positives out of this very tragic story:
  • This independent report clearly identifies where the university got it wrong.  The people who should have acted in responsible ways didn't, including a legendary football coach.  A lot of blame goes to a lot of people including the Trustees but the focus is on how the president, business administrator, athletic director and head football coach failed the university.  While this is very tragic and sad, at least the cover up has been exposed according to this independent investigation report's point of view.  It's a lot more difficult to make corrections when you don't know or refuse to know all the facts. 
  • The report indicates that the university has been proactive in making significant policy and procedural changes to help prevent something like this ever happening again.  It's interesting that it's often the institutions that have experienced something tragic like this and have learned from their mistakes that become positive examples for others.  I have no doubt that over time, Penn State will become a much stronger university for the lessons that have been learned from all of this.
  • Even though so much harm has been done and the victims will carry scars for life, this tragic situation at least has shined a spotlight on the terrible problem of child sex abuse.  While child abuse is in the news everyday, the shock of this happening at Penn State has reminded all of us that people in power need to always be accountable.
Now for the negatives:
  • The defensive blog posts by biased Penn State supporters needs to stop.  I bleed blue and white, have idolized Joepa since I was a toddler, but there is no longer any room for defensiveness.  The report speaks for itself.  Deal with it.  Move on.  You do the university much more harm by ignoring the facts and not living in reality.  Yes, celebrate the good things that Coach Paterno has done like the high graduation rates and emphasis on academics, but also come to grips that the man failed the university in a big and tragic way when they needed him the most.
  • I agree with my brother.  Take down the Joe Paterno statue in front of the stadium a.s.a.p. and replace it with a plaque that contains the words of the Penn State school song, "May no act of ours bring shame to one heart that loves thy name, May our lives but swell thy fame, dear old State, dear old state."  Have the plaque be dedicated to all victims of child sex abuse.  Right now, the statue of Coach Paterno is a detriment to future healing.
  • Even with all of the important changes Penn State has made, I still worry that something like this cover-up can happen again.  Appropriate policies and procedures cannot replace human beings making the right decisions in representing the institutions they are serving.  The janitor still needed to tell authorities that he saw a high profile assistant football coach abusing a child.  Coach Paterno should not have encouraged the athletic director to not report Sandusky to the police.  The athletic director, business administrator, and president should have alerted authorities when they first heard about Sandusky's abuse of children.  By not acting, they knew they were doing the wrong thing, but they did it anyway.  Hopefully, the additional policies will help prevent something like this happening again, but it still comes down to people doing the right thing.


Michael Wilson said...

Well said. I am embarrassed by the annual out of control partying each spring st my Alma-mater, Ohio University, and that is nothing even approaching what happened at Penn State...

People trusted with great power failed those kids, and I can't even imagine what was going through their heads when they decided to cover this up and look the other way instead of confronting Sandusky's evil acts directly. And we probably will never know.

But this is the failing of individuals, not the institution as a whole and I respect how those in charge now have taken swift, decisive action to investigate and address the issue to begin the healing process. Penn State will become a much better institution because of the way they are handling a difficult and tragic situation.

Sudie said...

Sylvia Macduff
Robert. stand tall for Penn State as it was less than 10people who took part in the cover up. I feel so sorry for this year graduating class as they will be linked to this for a long time. I will always remember your love for P S and I hope that you will wear your tie when the footbell team wins this year. The student's didn't do anything wrong.