Penn State Professors Defend Student Who Questioned Paterno Honor

September 20, 2016

Lauren Davis, the opinions editor of The Daily Collegian, the student newspaper at Pennsylvania State University, has been receiving threats and vile emails since the Collegian published an editorial questioning why the university planned to honor Joe Paterno, the university's longtime football coach, widely viewed as having failed to act on information that might have stopped his assistant Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse of boys. The university honored Paterno on Saturday, and many Penn State fans cheered. But the editorial, written prior to the event, offered another perspective.

Referring to the students enrolled today, the editorial said: "Currently, the only associations these classes of students have with Paterno is reading and hearing his name tied with Jerry Sandusky's and lawsuits or coming from the mouths of Penn State alumni who can’t accept that their time here is no longer. This is our Penn State. It is a Penn State without Joe Paterno. It is a Penn State that is still trying to rebuild, make amends and propel forward. Those of us here now are beyond ready to move on."

In response to the attacks on Davis, more than 50 faculty members signed a letter to the Collegian calling for support for Davis. "We note with anger and sorrow that Davis has met with vicious, personal threats that are toxic to the climate of our campus. We brook no compromise when it comes to the safety of our students, and we tolerate no action that would curtail the right of students to dissent from administrative policy or campus consensus," the letter says. "Retaliation, especially of the kind directed at Davis, provides pernicious cover for the spread of misogyny and sexual violence on a campus where these are already of grave concern. We must therefore be vigilant in our opposition to it. To do otherwise would be to default on our responsibility as teachers."

The letter ends by calling "upon the university's central administration and Board of Trustees to join us in condemning the hostile reaction to Davis."

Penn State President Eric Barron issued this statement in response, late Monday: "Our student newspaper and Lauren have the full support of the university. We absolutely support freedom of speech and are saddened by those who fail to recognize the rights of our students and the value of their opinions."

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