Wednesday, September 5, 2012

PSU Rally for Resignations is a misguided effort

In an act of gargantuan hubris and ego, a so-called "Rally for Resignations" is being held on the Penn State campus on September 15. The aim of this rally, conceived and organized in response to the tarnished reputation of the school's football team and idolized coach Joe Paterno in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal, is to call for the resignations of the PSU Board of Trustees, university president Rodney Erickson, and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett. Yes, it appears that a few people are still having a hard time accepting that some messed-up shit happened at their school. Rather than blaming those responsible - Sandusky, former president Graham Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz, athletic director Tim Curley, and, yes, Paterno himself - they continue to want to blame everyone else. Here's the official flyer which is being distributed:

Let's look at some of the items contained in this most-fascinating document, shall we? For starters, the organizers and participants demand the resignation of the PSU Board of Trustees for some specious reasons:
For failing to respond...when a newspaper article warned of a Sandusky criminal investigation...Proactive crisis intervention never occurred. Translation = PSUBOT didn't immediately start looking for excuses to make on behalf of anyone important who may have been somehow involved in what was to come.
For...allowing the media to frame the Sandusky scandal as the Penn State scandal. First of all, welcome to modern media. News outlets frame things in whatever manner gets the most attention. This kind of thing is certainly not unique to PSU. Also, given that Sandusky's abuse happened on the Penn State campus, and given that the highest-ranking university officials knew of the original allegations against Sandusky and apparently tried to handle it internally, it most certainly is a "Penn State scandal." Had Sandusky raped those boys in his basement, only then would it be simply a "Jerry Sandusky scandal."
For...allow[ing] the NCAA to impose unprecidented sanctions against the football program. This is easily the most offensive aspect of the Rally. Translation = We miss being awesome! We miss thinking we were better than everybody else because of the records of our football team and our coach! Eight children were raped by Sandusky after the initial allegation, and some folks are all bent out of shape because they can't count a bunch of "wins" anymore. They're pissed because Paterno is no longer the winningest coach in college football history. Forget the fact that the team won the games it won, and that Paterno coached all those games. It's no longer "official," and that gets their panties in a bunch because now they have no bragging rights. Teams and coaches they don't like are now technically more accomplished. I wonder how many of them have donated money to a child sex abuse charity, or done something to spread education as to how such abuse can be stopped. If they expended as much time, energy, and emotion trying to solve the problem as they do trying to protect their own ego-driven sense of awesomeness, maybe we might make a dent in the issue.
Also, note that they accuse former FBI director Louis Freeh of "presenting unproven theories as facts." The point of an investigation, mind you, is to generate findings based on available evidence, which is precisely what Freeh did. Had his findings suggested that Paterno knew nothing of what was going on, I'm sure the Rally supporters would have no problem whatsoever accepting those theories as facts.
For refusing to acknowledge or accept their responsibility for these failures. Again, shifting the blame to everyone other than those directly responsible for creating the situation. The NCAA sanctions came because a pedophile was abusing innocent children on campus, and the people who knew he was a bit dodgy didn't report him to the proper authorities. That ain't PSUBOT's fault, kiddies.
Next up, the Rally targets current university president Rodney Erickson. Their reasons for wanting him to step down are just as bizarre:
His constant apologies allowed the public to believe that any outrageous stories created by media were accurate. This is wrong on a couple levels. First, the university president shouldn't apologize for child rape occurring on his campus? Bull-fucking-shit! He's sorry innocent kids were molested! As he should be! And, really, he's running a multi-million dollar organization, in desperate need of damage control. He's trying to restore some honor and dignity to the university. For this you want to crucify him? Second, the media didn't create outrageous stories; it reported on the findings of the Freeh report. It's not like the media decided to take down PSU by creating a story out of whole cloth. Once more, blaming someone else for what happened, not those responsible.
For allowing Penn State to be bullied by the NCAA into accepting outrageous sanctions, and then sign[ing] a consent decree which eliminated any chance of appeal. Hey guess what, Rally supporters? Your own university president believes Spanier, Schultz, Curley, and Paterno were guilty of negligence! He's accepting the consequences that come with such actions! Good for him!
Last but not least, the Rally calls for the resignation of Pennsyvania governor Tom Corbett. The first two reasons they cite are 100% correct:
For refusing, as Attorney General, to aggressively investigate Sandusky's criminal activity. Before becoming governor, Corbett was the A.G. investigating the initial allegations against Sandusky. He did nothing about it, allowing Sandusky to continue his heinous behavior. Corbett claims there wasn't enough evidence, but the theory is that it was an election year, and he knew he'd lose major votes if he became The Man Who MadePenn State Look Bad. Corbett absolutely should be investigated to see if he knowingly failed to prosecute a pedophile. If it turns out he did, he should do jail time, plain and simple.
For approving, as Governor, a large grant to The Second Mile [Sandusky's charity] while knowing that it was under investigation. See above.
It's the last point they get wrong:
For having his Attorney General "accidentally" release the misleading Grand Jury summary before Coach Paterno could announce his retirement, allowing Paterno to serve as a convenient media target. Translation = "Boo hoo! You made our coach look bad!" So they want the state governor to resign because the reputation of a football coach was damaged? Hmmm...protecting Paterno. Isn't this the exact same mindset that created the whole mess in the first place? Didn't all this happen because the university's highest-ranking officials wanted to protect the coach - and the football program in general - from bad press? If all this upsetting stuff happened because of such a mindset, why the hell would the Rally supporters want to propogate it? Have they not learned that this "protect Paterno at all costs" philosophy was the very thing that led to his downfall? They also suggest Corbett was launching a smear campaign, once more casting the blame everywhere except with those on whom it should rest.
I understand a lot of PSU fans, students, and alumni are upset. Most of them have a sense of perspective on these unfortunate events. The people organizing and planning to participate in this Rally for Resignations, however, do not. I love college football too (Texas A&M, baby!) so I know what it means to take a rooting interest in a team. The thing is, though, that the Rally supporters are trying to restore the glory of the past, which simply cannot be done. And it's all about ego, about wanting to feel awesome again. It reminds me of Al Bundy, pathetically recalling his glory days in an effort to feel better about being a woman's shoe salesman. The Rally supporters would be serving the university - not to mention the community at large - better by looking forward, by finding ways to create a Whole New Day at Penn State. By all accounts, it is a great school. Those who care should devote their energies to showing everyone how great it is today and how great it will be tomorrow, not trying to remind everyone of how great it was yesterday. Because the damage will never undone.