|It's the media's fault Paterno didn't contact the police?|
Pennsylvania State University students disgraced themselves and their school last night by engaging in a selfish riot that demonstrated an utter disregard for the victims of sexual abuse. Football Coach Joe Paterno was fired after a decades-long tenure because of his handling of a sex abuse scandal revolving around one of his subordinates. To be more specific, it is alleged that Paterno’s defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, sodomized a child in a locker room shower stall. Sandusky was arrested on November 4th on dozens of charges of sexual abuse. The schools athletic director, Tim Curley, and Gary Shultz, Vice President of Finance and Business have both been arrested for perjury as a result of their failure to report the sexual assault.
Although Paterno is not legally accountable because he did the bare minimum (reporting the allegations to his supervisors), the fact that the police weren't notified is unconscionable. This scandal resulted in the firing of Paterno and Penn State University President Graham Spanier by the Board of Trusties last night, and immediately afterwards, students took to the streets to riot, turn over media vehicles, throw rocks and damage property.
Were they rioting in anger over the fact that their school looked the other way when children were raped on campus? No. The New York Times quoted student Paul Howard, 24, as saying, "Of course we're going to riot! What do they expect when they tell us at 10 o'clock that they fired our football coach?"
Jeff Heim, 19, said, "We got rowdy, and we got maced. But make no mistake, the board started this riot by firing our coach. They tarnished a legend.”
These students seem under the impression that their coach is the victim, not the child who was raped in his locker room. If you want more evidence that these students were more worried about football than Sandusky’s victims, hear what the alleged victim’s sister had to say. Her name was not used to protect the identity of the victim, but she told local media outlets that she has avoided going to class because students made jokes about being “Sanduskied.” She added, “I’ve just been really upset about it all because a lot of people aren’t focusing on the victims in this. And instead they’re focusing on other things, like football.”
These students trashed their community out of anger directed at the Board of Directors, not the assistant coach who raped children. Where was the anger when news broke that faculty were facing charges of perjury in a sex abuse case? Why didn’t they riot when they found out that Sandusky was given keys and access to athletic facilities after he was let go for his “indiscretions?” If you judge last nights crowd by their actions, they were much more upset that their coach lost his job than they were about the fact that his protégé allegedly used his stature with the school to rape eight boys over the course of 15 years.
The Board of Trustees used good judgment in firing Paterno and Spanier with the hopes of getting this disgusting mess under control, but it is not enough. I'm sure we will see more steps taken to earn back trust and demonstrate a situation like this will never happen again. But getting rid of a coach is not enough. Every student on camera who destroyed property, attacked the media or fought with police should be expelled. Students like Heim, who acknowledge taking part in the riots, need to be shown that there is no place at Penn State for students who use violence to voice their frustration.
The U.N. estimates that over 3,500 protesters have been killed in Syria by a government that tortures its people. An Iraqi war vet was seriously injured in Oakland, California while protesting economic inequalities at home. In comparison, Penn State students decided to riot because they were mad their coach was fired for protecting a sexual predator.
This is a story about a monster that brutally robbed eight young boys of their childhoods and the failure, or disinterest, in stopping him. In the eyes of Penn State students, this is a story about football and the victim is their once-great coach. In a just world, their inability to grasp the severity of this situation demonstrates an intellectual shortcoming that would bar them from any facility of higher learning. Unfortunately, any of Sandusky’s victims could tell you that the world is not just.
It’s time Penn State students stop worrying about their coach and start worrying about the children who were terrorized on his watch. The Board of Trustees are not the ones with blood on their hands.