The trial may be over, but the Sandusky scandal is still causing fallout for Penn State. According to the NCAA, the university will face “significant, unprecedented penalties” for the years of abuse and concealment at the hands of former defense coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
It has been reported by CNN that Penn State will not face the “death penalty” which would have caused the football team to be suspended from fall play, but severe sanctions still will be issued. This news come on the heels of the university taking down Joe Paterno’s statue from outside the football stadium.
We have heard from Sandusky’s victims and read the Freeh Report, but what about the students? Their school’s reputation has been tarnished and the legacy they love is now riddled with an inescapable stigma. Penn State graduate Dan Finer and junior Talya Levenson weigh in how they feel about the scandal and future of their university.
How did you react after hearing the news that Joe Paterno’s statue was taken down?
DF: At this point, whatever it takes to move past this situation and focus on the road to recovery I'm all for. Joe Paterno's legacy is not defined by a statue, everyone who is part of the university and the community knows how many lives he impacted in a positive way. If anything, I am glad they stopped at the statue, rather than take Paterno's name down from the library, which is far more important and reflective of a person he was compared to a statue.
TL: I am truly devastated, I don't think it's right to take that away from us and most importantly it is insulting to his memory. It's really sad that I never even got a picture with it.
The Huffington Post recently ran a story entitled The Blame Game. Who do you think is to blame?
DF: From what I have learned as more investigations lead to more information, the obvious people to point fingers at are former president Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz, Tim Curley and yes, Joe Paterno. However, from my experience, and as other media outlets have noted, this is less off a case of “who” is to blame and more of a “what” is to blame. State College has a national reputation of a being an incredibly safe, beautiful, and close community, and for me, a community that is not only true in all those regards, but also contains some of the nicest and friendliest people I know. Unfortunately, those in charge kept digging and burying the truth trying to protect the sanctity of our university, and in the process may have dug the grave that is the reputation of Penn State.
TL: I can’t say for sure. I was never in the situation so I can’t point fingers directly at people. I do feel that the board could have done more, but they would not have stopped it completely. I will probably be hated by Penn Staters for saying this, but Joe-Pa could have elevated the problem to the police. However, I do not believe at all that he is to blame.
The Freeh Report and other articles have stated that football is glorified at Penn State and that’s why no one spoke up. Do you think those accusations are true?
DF: I feel that’s a very unfair assessment to make. The only reason football is considered “glorified” is because of a man like Joe Paterno, who is not only one of the successful and longest tenured football careers of all time, but far more than that was a key figure in the development of Penn State as a school. There are plenty of examples of other schools that are considered glorified because of their long histories of famous players, coaches, and victories, but very few have their history so closely and recently tied as Penn State did with Joe Paterno.
TL: While football is glorified at Penn State, I have no belief that it is why the problem was ignored and covered up. I feel no different about our football program. I still bought season tickets for the upcoming year and am so excited to welcome our new coach and another great year of Penn State football.
How did you react to the accusations about Sandusky and Paterno’s firing?
DF: Beyond disgusted and ashamed, the only way to describe those weeks of stories and breaking news was being in a state of shock, and trying not to let the influx of information interfere with your own personal life. If the Freeh Report is indeed true, then I have to agree that the Board of Trustees made the correct decision in firing Paterno. But at the time, I was disappointed and angered that you simply dismiss a man who has been so much to a school outside of a football coach.
TL: I felt strongly that it was unfair to put the blame on JoePa when he did not even commit the crime himself. It was almost a feeling of helplessness, it was like he was already fired and there was nothing the Penn State students could do to bring him back, not even our famous “riot.” Not only football, but our entire school and its spirit was never going to be the same. However, I was proved wrong because Penn State will always have pride and be a resilient bunch.
After all of the information that has surfaced, how do you personally feel?
DF: The acts of a few individuals, no matter how heinous, do not represent an entire university, and I graduated with honor coming from a university with one of the largest alumni bases in the United States as one of the most active and supportive student bodies. Just because I am proud of my school and my degree does not mean I support pedophilia, just as someone who is a fan of baseball does not mean they support the use of steroids. As far as I am concerned, this scandal is the worst thing that could happen to any kind of institution, but since anyone I have befriended, learned from, or interacted with was involved then I have no reason to be ashamed of it.
TL: I feel angry that our reputation is tarnished because the actions of one man have scarred us. However, we are not Sandusky and did not do what he did so I do not feel guilty or ashamed in any way. I will never be embarrassed that I go to Penn State. What bothers me most is mainly the comments my friends from other schools make about the situation.
How do you think Penn State will rebound from this?
DF: To put it simply, Penn State will be ok, regardless of what happens to its football program and former administrators. There are simply just too many good things and too many good people at the school and in the community for something even as bad as this scandal to prevent people from moving forward. This year Penn State received its second largest amount of donations from alumni, which just shows how much the school means to so many people. Penn State is already in the process of rebounding and rebuilding itself, and for a situation even has horrible as this, there is just too much tradition and too many people who care about the school and community for it to fail.
TL: I think some great PR and time will be Penn State’s way to rebound from all of this. The students themselves already are doing their own sort of PR campaigns by demonstrating our pride and how much we care by continuing to do great things.
UPDATE 2:21pm ET:
CNN reports that the NCAA has announced Penn State's punishment. It in its ruling, the NCAA issued a $60 million fine, took away 14 of Joe Paterno's winning seasons, banned the university from four postseasons and said it will lose 20 football scholarships a year for four seasons. The fine will be paid over the next five years with the money going toward programs to help victims of child sexual abuse.
The Big Ten Conference also issued their own penalities against Penn State this morning, making the university ineligible for the conference title game for the next four seasons as well as giving Penn State's share of bowl revenues to charities that "protect children." The total amount is approximately $13 million.