Penn State’s appalling behavior

In a story as horrible and disturbing as the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State, it’s surprising that one of the most appalling aspects of the story is the behavior of the university’s students.

After the removal of Coach Joe Paterno, this video is an example of the response from the students. A body, which is supposed to be educated and striving for a higher level of discourse, is rioting in a destructive mob. And why? Because the university is holding accountable the people who did not hold themselves to account in one of the most horrendous examples of institutional coverup of heinous alleged crimes.

In the coverup, it really does not matter whether the allegations against Sandusky prove true or not. What matters is that so many people – at the highest levels of the institution – appeared willing to act above the law, to put aside the welfare of children, and to avoid the responsibility of reporting allegations to authorities and making sure they are investigated and dealt with.

The students should be outraged by the behaviors of those charged, not at those very same people being now, finally held accountable. Instead, they are behaving as if something to which they are entitled – the sanctity of their football program – is being taken away from them.

This may be hard for them to fathom, but some things are indeed more important than football. How will they account for their behavior – which they themselves are so proudly capturing on video – a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now? How will they explain themselves to their children?

The moral bankruptcy with which these students behaved is symptomatic of the apparent depravity that has engulfed Penn State’s social fabric. It is hard to imagine that a coverup of the magnitude now uncovered could have gone on in any other context.

One hopes that Penn State is a rare exception. But in the backs of our minds, we know that it most likely is not. And that’s the more horrible aspect of this story.

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