Penn State scandal is sign of unwise trust in leaders

Over the last week, revelations regarding a single man’s molestation and rape of young boys have shaken not only the administration at the largest university in Pennsylvania, but also the trust in the entire Penn State University football enterprise.

Last Saturday, a 23-page grand jury report detailed longtime assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s improper relations with at least eight boys over the course of the past 15 years. The report documented multiple eyewitness accounts of Sandusky taking advantage of the children he met through the charity he founded, The Second Mile, as well as “materially false statements” made by other Penn State administrators to protect Sandusky. Until this month, Sandusky had only suffered the trivial punishment of having his athletic center keys revoked.

However, the response from the Penn State community, following the removal of the university’s president Graham Spanier and revered football coach Joe Paterno, has been mixed at best. While many community members are acting to show empathy for Sandusky’s victims, others have taken to the streets to protest the removal of Paterno — their father figure, their revered coach, and the leader of their collegiate pride. This impenetrable support, expressed by so many, highlights the unhealthy culture that has developed around the Nittany Lions. Juxtaposed against the sexual abuse scandals that the Roman Catholic Church frequently weathers, we question if academia should support collegiate football raised to the level of devout religion.

While pride in Carnegie Mellon sports teams is a phenomenon found in few of our students, we do hold academics in high esteem. However, we don’t believe that news of a faculty or staff member allowing the commission of heinous acts would incite riots in support of said faculty or staff member. We have not built a culture of blind trust in our leaders; we follow them because we believe in and support their actions, their reasoning, and the decisions they present to us.

But a few firings won’t reverse the sentiment that Penn State football brings out in thousands across the state. Paterno was head coach for 44 years. He built not just the team itself, but also the image and the brand that surrounds it.

His firing will not remove his influence. All of the coaching staff worked under him, and most were hired by him — his own son is the quarterback coach.

These coaches as well as others in Penn State’s administration were responsible for hiding Sandusky’s wrongdoings, but who can say what other smaller incidents they have hidden in order to maintain an image of honesty, perfection, and loyalty? They were considered infallible, and now their reputation is shattered. We encourage Penn State to dismantle its remaining shields and restructure into a more open, responsible organization.