How Penn State Could Begin to Redeem Itself

As a long-ago graduate of Penn State (1977) who covered Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky’s football teams for the school newspaper, I feel the following goes without saying.

Sandusky’s alleged sexual abuse of boys, first and foremost, is an enormous tragedy for his victims. Their emotional health matters far more than does the university’s public image. The latter’s will recover somewhat over time if it conducts a thorough housecleaning and actually sticks to its newly issued code of ethics.

Second, everyone who is proved to be involved in the cover-up be will dogged for the rest of their lives by failing to show a conscience when it mattered, and perhaps big legal problems.

But if Penn State truly wants to demonstrate to the world that it is changing its ways – that its football program is no longer calling the shots for a weak administration – it needs to do more. Much more.

How about directing much of its $50 million-a-year in football profits to an educational program meant to prevent organizations (schools, churches, companies, etc.) from abusing people (sexually, emotionally, financially, etc.)? 

If Penn State really wants to mend its ways, show remorse for its disgraceful actions (or lack thereof), and demonstrate its capabilities as a research university, it should create an institute to shed new light on a problem with which it is now well familiar. There are plenty of organizations in addition to its own to research: the Catholic Church, the late Jim Jones, etc., etc.

Penn State's administration must reshape its long insular and arrogant culture. That's the first step. Concurrently, to repair its tarnished image Penn State should remember why it's in business: to create and impart knowledge. Since the scandal happened on its once-hallowed grounds, no other university than Penn State is in a better position to shed light on the roots of and remedies to institutional abuse.


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