I feel I must object to the editorial published last week regarding the scandal at Penn State, and the former head coach Joe Paterno’s role in it. In the editorial the author claims that Paterno bears too much blame for the cover-up of multiple sexual assaults and rapes committed on boys as young as ten years old by former Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky. First the editorial claims that we cannot yet pass judgment on Paterno because he “has not had a chance to address the media” and that we should hear “his side of the story” but in fact he has released several press statement including one upon his dismissal from the university. Next, the article tries to shift some of the blame from Paterno by enumerating the list of other university officials who knew about the incident, yet also failed to act, including Athletic Director Tim Curley, University Vice President Gary Schultz and University President Graham Spanier. However, just because there were others who failed in their own legal and moral responsibilities, does not excuse the abdication of his own.
To answer the author’s question of why it seems as though the cover-up by Penn State is receiving more attention than the crime itself, I offer the following explanation. Unfortunately, we have grown used to the sad fact that there are despicable people such as Sandusky who commit these horrible crimes. What bothers us as a society is that a man and an institution we trusted would know about this kind of abuse and do nothing. We have learned from court testimony that Mike McQueary witnessed what was clearly rape by Jerry Sandusky against a young boy, and that he later told Paterno about the incident. Paterno did not want to turn in a man he once considered a friend, or jeopardize the reputation of Penn State or its football program. Nevertheless, Paterno had a choice: Let it go, continue playing football and let a child suffer and a rapist walk free, or tell the police and see justice done. Paterno choose to do nothing. Both his dismissal from the university, and the blame he is receiving for failing to act are fully justified.