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Penn State: Did the NCAA go too far or not far enough?

Did the NCAA’s penalties for Penn State go too far?  Or not far enough?

It seems that there is a lot of talk about the severity of the penalties handed down by the NCAA against Penn State. There is also debate over whether or not the statue of Joe Paterno should have been removed from the stadium. And there is discussion over the authority Mr. Emmert exerted in his role as President of the NCAA. What seems to be lacking here is a discussion of how the suspicion of inappropriate conduct with a child could have been side stepped by so many people in positions of authority.

This is more than a simple oversight; this crosses the line into gross incompetence by men who were revered for their supposed integrity. If the molestation of one child was excused, the penalties should not be any less than what were levied. But, to find out that dozens of young boys were repeatedly groomed, seduced, enticed and lured into trusting a man that was in a position of influence is not only inexcusable, it is incomprehensible.

What does this type of attitude say about our society? Have we become so hardened to abuse that we can turn a blind eye by rationalizing that some collateral damage must be incurred on behalf of the greater good? Are we ready to put a price tag on the innocence of our future? It seems that some at Penn State did just that and more when they had information years ago that something was amiss and chose to do nothing but look the other way. In many ways, the men who did not immediately take swift and punitive action toward Jerry Sandusky are just as guilty of molesting those victims as he was. To hide behind the veil of passing the responsibility on to others to report these illegal and criminal activities makes each person involved guilty and accountable to the victims for the trauma inflicted on them.

Children are gullible, naïve, and innocent. Above all, children are trusting of adults and want their attention. Children are the weakest prey and are the easiest to persuade that they are special. This is especially true of children from homes that are underprivileged. For a man, not to mention a University, not to protect the most vulnerable among us cannot go without severe and harsh penalties to make a statement that this type of behavior cannot and will not be tolerated on any level.

It was incumbent on each person that suspected any impropriety taking place on the campus or by an employee of the University to immediately report such suspicion to the authorities at once. Forget protocol, forget chain of command, and forget proper channels when the violation of a child is at stake. No excuse or rationale can justify the actions or inactions of those in charge.

The simple fact is that no punishment or punitive actions against Penn State can ever repay those young men for what was taken from them. The damage to the self-esteem caused from the direct abuse is only part of the trauma victims feel. The underlying message victims have received from this administration and staff is loud and clear. That message is, “You don’t matter!” How can these victims hear any other message than this one? Penn State officials put the University’s reputation and athletic program ahead of these victims.

Sixty million dollars, four years of suspension from post season play, four years of reduced athletic scholarships, and the forfeiture of all wins from 1998 through 2011 may seem like stiff punishment for Penn State University, but ask any adult who has been sexually abused as a child if their pain and memories went away in four years. Ask them if sixty million dollars will ever buy back their innocence and trust. Ask them if they even care about how many wins a football team has achieved. I assure you all victims of sexual child abuse will agree that no punishment will ever be enough for them to forget the horrific actions of those that preyed on their vulnerability.

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