I have been to State College, PA, exactly once in my life, and then it was to visit friends in a Quaker retirement community there. I don't know anyone who currently attends Penn State. All I really know about the Sandusky/Paterno scandal is what I read in the New York Times (and, okay, The Onion, which, as happens so often, seems more on target than the major straight news media). So I am sure there is more to this story, as there is to every story, than is being reported.
But this is the story as I understand it: In 2002, a graduate assistant allegedly walks in on an assistant football coach raping a child and reports it to the head coach. The coach reports the accusation to university officials. And then -- nothing happens.
This week, the former assistant coach is arrested and charged with sexually abusing eight boys over a fifteen-year period, and two top university officials are charged with perjury and failing to report what they knew to the authorities.
When the story breaks, at a news conference, tempers run high. A cameraman repeatedly shouts at the vice chairman of the Penn State board, "Your campus is going to burn tonight!"
Thousands of students then take to the streets. The anger becomes so intense that students throw rocks and overturn a media van.
Because they are outraged about this apparent extended assault on children and the cover-up by university officials that allegedly enabled the former
AC to continue raping children for nine more years?
Not quite. They are angry because the head coach, who never followed up after making the initial report, has lost his job. (The president of the
university lost his as well, but no one seems to care so much about that.)
I understand that Penn State is a large school, and that these students may not represent the majority, just as the threatening cameraman isn't typical of TV workers. Nevertheless, this is the story reported by the Newspaper of Record. I haven't seen anything yet on students protesting the cover-up, or even a think piece on why the firing of a football coach is treated as a tragedy while the suffering of child victims is an afterthought.
I have been trying to make sense of this. Is it all about the loss of revenue and prestige that could result from a less stellar football program? Is it about loyalty to a popular, even legendary campus figure? Or is there some other factor I am missing that would account for the apparent callousness toward the real victims here -- the eight (at least) abused children and all the others who must feel less safe knowing that their well-being counts for so little when weighed against the interests of the team and its supporters?
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