By Christopher Stuck
Thousands of Penn State students ran amok in the streets of State College, Pa., the night of Wednesday, Nov. 9. They chanted and rioted, throwing bottles, tearing down a lamp post, and overturning a television truck. The mob dispersed around 1:30 a.m. after police in riot gear used pepper spray.
The State College area is dominated by the University Park campus of Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) and nicknamed “Happy Valley.” All of this this outrage and property damage, this “Not-So-Happy-Valley,” ripped through town in terribly misguided support of 84-year-old Joe Paterno, an icon of college football after 62 seasons attached to the Penn State football team and 44 as head coach. Paterno was fired earlier in the day.
In March 2002, Mike McQueary, then a graduate assistant, reportedly witnessed then-Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy in the showers of the football building on campus. McQueary reported the incident to Paterno the next day. Paterno reported it to Athletic Director Tim Curley. Curley took the incident to Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz, who oversaw the Penn State police department. Curley and Schultz failed to report the incident to any outside authorities.
Eerily, Sandusky founded and volunteered for a non-profit organization for underprivileged youths, Second Mile, possibly meeting his victims there. Even knowing of Sandusky’s access to children, the only action taken by Curley and Schultz was banning Sandusky from bringing children to the football building, implying that Sandusky should simply molest his victims elsewhere. This action was approved by university president Graham Spanier.
Their deliberate non-involvement of the police feels like a cover-up. At the very least, it was a chain of irresponsibility and, through their failure to report the incident, these men allowed Sandusky to continue to destroy the lives of the boys he allegedly targeted for his crimes. Their actions are unforgivable, even if the allegations against Sandusky prove to be false. By allowing Sandusky to continue, they may as well have been approving the rape of children.
Curley and Schultz face failure to report and perjurycharges and face up to seven years in prison. Paterno and Spanier were fired Nov. 9 and have not yet been charged with any crime. McQueary was placed on administrative leave Nov. 11.
Sponsors pulled their support of the Nov. 12 Penn State game against Nebraska. McQueary suffered death threats. The scandal casts shadows across all of Penn State, from alumni to current students. A football recruit, Joey O’Connor, rescinded his commitment to attend and play for Penn State. I personally scratched the university from my shortlist of graduate schools to which I will apply. The scandal will have long-ranging effects. A degree from Penn State may open the graduate to unwelcome questions, and choosing to attend post-scandal Penn State certainly will.
So why the outcry from students? The scandal can only hurt them. Why the violence and outbursts in support of a man who is, let’s face it, only important because of sports? Paterno was morally irresponsible. He was rightfully fired. He should face charges of failure to report. He knew. He did nothing.
As British statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
This is what happened at Penn State, but it could be happening anywhere. It may not be something as severe as child molestation. It could be something as small, in comparison, as driving buzzed or verbal assault.
Do not participate in a cover-up. Do not allow a cover-up. Do not stand by while bad things happen. Should you be unable to stop the incident yourself, get the authorities involved. You may be forced to “roll over” on a friend, but you may just save a life.