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Penn Stater Article

There is a really good interview with two Penn State sociology faculty members, Sam Richards and Laurie Mulvey, in the most recent issue of the Penn Stater. They make three points that I found particularly salient in regards to the scandal.

Prof. Mulvey uses the metaphor of a hurricane destroying a community to describe what Penn State is going through. In the metaphor she sees people going out the morning after the storm to find that their community has been ravaged, while the outside world starts pointing fingers at the community for its lack of preparedness. The storm damage is their own fault, so they certainly don't deserve any help with the cleanup. She concludes with this observation about the real impact on the Penn State community in the wake of the Sandusky scandal:

"there's likely to be real economic consequences that may restructure the lives of people in the community. As we say that, I hear those that are thinking, "Oh, poor them. What about the real victims? What about the children who were not protected?" I'm definitely not suggesting that we forget that for one minute. But I think it's troublesome to deny that there are others who are or will be injured as well.

I am most frustrated by the broad brush stigmatization of the entire Penn State community by the NCAA and the media. While we can forgive the media because, well, they're asses who will shill anything for a dollar, I cannot forgive the NCAA because they are supposed to represent the higher values of inquiry, truth, and justice. At a time when Penn State needs the support and assistance of its peers in higher education, the NCAA says "you did this to yourselves, so fuck you".

The media and the NCAA would have us believe that child sex abuse is a Penn State problem, but Prof. Richards makes an interesting observation about the problem with viewing the child sexual abuse scandal as a Penn State problem:

One of the things that I've noticed in all the commentary is an attempt to paint Penn State as a place and a culture that's really outside the box of ordinary.And that perpetuates the idea that this scandal is unique to something that exists here. But let me tell you what. People are not paying attention to crimes against children all over the country.They're not turning in their family members, their ministers, their favorite uncles, their upstanding neighbors, their aunts ... So the problem is, the more we just point the spotlight at Penn State, the less likely we are to pay attention to the stuff that's happening all around us--look at the numbers.

The attempt by the Freeh Report and the NCAA to attribute this scandal to something odd about the Penn State Culture is disingenuous and downright dangerous. First, it's disingenuous because there is nothing different about the Penn State Culture. Yes, we love football. Yes, we love Paterno. But we love them BECAUSE of the values of success with academic integrity that they represent. I guess you could say the Penn State Culture was different after all. This culture was, and is, superior to the culture of so many college football factories in the NCAA. We were just unfortunate enough to have a serial child predator working on the staff in the past. It could have happened at any institution, but it happened at ours. Second, it is dangerous because it distracts us from the problem of addressing child sexual abuse by focusing attention, resources, and energy on football. Not only does it direct us away from the problem at hand, but it stigmatizes Penn State in the process. Child sex abuse becomes the Penn State problem (or the Catholic Church or Boy Scout problem), allowing us to deny the depth of the problem in our society.

The Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal wasn't a product of the Penn State football culture. Child abuse is much more pervasive than that. As Prof. Richards says, look at the numbers :

The estimates are that one in five girls and one in eight boys are sexually abused. But let's get even more conservative and say one in seven girls and one in ten boys. Walk out your front door. Identify seven [women], and identify the first ten men, and assume that one of the [women] and one of the men has been sexually abused in some way as a child. And just keep doing that ... We're looking at what 12,000 to 13,000 victims in Beaver Stadium?

Do that for every stadium in the country on Saturday and you will begin to see how this is not a Penn State Problem.

The NCAA should be ashamed of its role in isolating and obfuscating what is clearly a widespread social problem in our society.

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