I just sent this letter to Dr. Emmert. I hope others will continue to express their disappointment with the unhelpful stance the NCAA has taken vis a vis Penn State.
Dear Dr. Emmert,
I want to add my name to the list of Penn State Alumni who are disturbed and distraught by the actions of the NCAA. I understand that the NCAA based its actions on the Freeh Report, and that Penn State consented to these sanctions as part of the rehabilitation process, but I think the whole execution was hastily arranged and clumsily carried out. While many Penn Staters have pointed to flaws in the Freeh Report, or to the lack of due process in the handing down of NCAA sanctions, I want to say a thing or two about the relevance of this circus to addressing the problem of child sexual abuse. When one in five kids in America are sexually abused it is in indication that we have a societal problem; and for a media driven lynch mob (driven, by the way, by the same media company that contributes to the sexualization of children) to offer up one institution as a sacrifice at the altar of some kind of retributive justice system, we have cast our gaze from the problem of widespread child sexual abuse at hand and satisfied our own lust for blood instead. While we might feel better about ourselves for having made an example out of people who enable child sexual abuse, we have done nothing to actually address the problem in our society. We have only alienated our own responsibility by making complicity in child sexual abuse the exceptional problem of others. By focusing so exclusively and powerfully on Penn State, to the exclusion of other institutions, cultural values and media practices, you have missed a teachable moment and buried the valuable lessons in an orgy of vengeful disavowal. I want to make clear my understanding of the effect of the NCAA in getting involved in crimes committed on the Penn State campus. You have shifted focus away from the very significant problem of child sexual abuse in our society and made it the problem of one institution and a handful of individuals. Effectively, you have allowed people to dismiss this societal problem as a societal problem and instead to focus on the problem as flawed institutional procedures. One in five children are not raped by flawed institutional procedures.The NCAA could have helped Penn State become a model for how to learn from and better address our sad experience with child sexual abuse to the betterment of a societal understanding of this problem, but instead your organization took the easy road of labeling and stigmatizing the institution.
If the NCAA is interested in helping Penn State learn from its tragic experience, and to become an institutional and societal model for how to address the problem of child sexual abuse, you need to stand with us and support our transformation. I know it is not too late for the NCAA to switch tracks and become an agent of change instead of the agent of execution. By standing with Penn State and helping our great university to address our own failures without judgement and retributive justice, you stand to help all of us advance a greater understanding of the problem of child sexual abuse in our society. To continue your current course is to cast child sexual abuse as a deviant problem of deviant individuals and institutions, thereby marginalizing the problem and any serious discussion of its social solutions. This is why I think, in short time, the NCAA will recognize the mistakes it has made in punitively punishing Penn State and instead stand with us in developing a strategy for addressing a serious social ill that includes stepping back from the unhelpful stigmatization process the NCAA is currently pursuing.
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