The Student Stance: Paterno’s discharge wrong, undeserved

The Southerner

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By Jeffrey Cox

The venerable head football coach for Penn State University, Joe Paterno, was fired on Nov. 9 due to his handling of the allegations of child molestation by his former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky. When informed by an eyewitness of one particular incident approximately 10 years ago, Paterno immediately reported it to the university’s athletic director and the head of campus police, as mandated by law. Unfortunately, his superiors did virtually nothing about the incident and, by not reporting the allegation to the police, committed a crime.
Many argue that although Paterno did what the law required him to do, report the incident to his superiors, he should have done more. There is no question that he did not do as much as he could have, nor probably as much as he should have, but is that something that warrants a well respected coach to be fired?
Over the course of Sandusky’s career with Penn State and as a retired physical education teacher with full access to the football facilities, he allegedly molested dozens of children he met through a charity he started for underprivileged children. Despite the atrocities Sandusky appears to have committed, one should ask themselves if, in Paterno’s situation, they would not have done the same thing.
Sandusky was a close friend and work colleague of Paterno’s throughout his career at the university. Not only that, but when Paterno found out about Sandusky’s actions, Sandusky was no longer a member of the coaching staff and therefore could not have been fired or suspended by Paterno. In that case, he did the right thing in reporting the incident to the Penn State athletic director Tim Curley, who did have the power to do something about Sandusky’s job. Paterno was clearly trying to protect a personal relationship he had while still following the law and being a good citizen.
It is easy for us to watch on the sidelines and say Paterno should have done more in order to stop the abuse he knew was going on, but the reality is that most people probably would have done just as much as he did, if not less. Sandusky was a friend of Paterno’s, and they had known each other for a long time. It is understandable he didn’t report directly to the police. The fact that he has been so heavily scrutinized by the general populace is probably because they don’t want to admit they would be as imperfect as he was.
It is human nature to want to protect friendships, and he should not have been fired because of it.

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