Sunday, July 22, 2012

Doing the Hard Thing Well: Paterno Statue Taken Down

"I fully realize that my decision will not be popular 
in some Penn State circles
 but I am certain it is the right and principled decision."

--- Rodney Erickson

Penn State President asks university community 
to reflect on Paterno Legacy

Penn State President Rodney Erickson was well-aware that "the world will be watching how Penn State addresses its challenges in the days ahead."

Workers from Penn State's Office of Physical Plant cover the statue of former football coach Joe Paterno near Beaver Stadium on Penn State's campus in State College, Pa., on Sunday, July 22, 2012. The university announced Sunday that it was taking down the monument in the wake of an investigative report that found the late coach and three other top Penn State administrators concealed sex abuse claims against retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. (AP Photo/Centre Daily Times, Christopher Weddle) at CBS
As KSN&C reported, since last November Erickson had known of  the Grand Jury presentment and the charges against Jerry Sandusky (warning: strong stuff) and  other high-ranking University officials...." Fairly or unfairly, the term "child sexual abuse" instantly became affixed to the entire Penn State University community. Whether or not it is fair probably lies with how that community responds.

What must a university president do to restore the good name of an otherwise fine institution?

Finding Louis Freeh's Report of the Special Investigative Counsel persuasive, Erickson concluded that the university community "had to confront a failure of leadership at many levels." 

This apparently includes the realm where sports legends reside. 
The statue of Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium has become a lightning rod of controversy and national debate including the role of big time sports in university life. The Freeh Report has given us a great deal to reflect upon and to consider including Coach Paterno's legacy.

Artist Paints Over Paterno Halo
This combination of two photos shows a detail of a mural by Michael Pilato in State College, Pa. depicting a halo over the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012, left, and the halo removed by the artist on Saturday, July 14, 2012. Pilato had put a halo over Paterno's image after the beloved coach's death in January, but said he felt he had to remove it Saturday after a report that Paterno, former university president Graham Spanier and others buried allegations of child sex-abuse against ex-assistant Jerry Sandusky. Paterno's family denies the claim. (Abby Drey, Nabil K. Mark,AP Photo/Centre Daily Times) at CBS News.

This from Nick Bromberg at Yahoo! Sports:

It's been a busy Sunday morning in State College.

The NCAA has scheduled a news conference for 9 a.m. EDT at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis Monday to announce "corrective and punitive measures" against Penn State because of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.

According to a report from CBS News, a source says those penalties will be 'unprecedented' and 'I've never seen anything like it.'

While sanctions are coming Monday, action has already been taken on the statue of Joe Paterno in front of Beaver Stadium. Workers set up fencing around the statue early Sunday morning and removed it via forklift. The school released a statement announcing the decision to remove the statue at 7 a.m. EDT.

"I now believe that, contrary to its original intention, Coach Paterno's statue has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing in our University and beyond," Penn State President Rodney Erickson said in the statement. "For that reason, I have decided that it is in the best interest of our university and public safety to remove the statue and store it in a secure location. I believe that, were it to remain, the statue will be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse."

The university's library will still bear Paterno's name.

"On the other hand, the Paterno Library symbolizes the substantial and lasting contributions to the academic life and educational excellence that the Paterno family has made to Penn State University," Erickson said. "The library remains a tribute to Joe and Sue Paterno's commitment to Penn State's student body and academic success, and it highlights the positive impacts Coach Paterno had on the University. Thus I feel strongly that the library's name should remain unchanged."

The Paterno family released a statement in response to the statue's removal.

"Tearing down the statue of Joe Paterno does not serve the victims of Jerry Sandusky's horrible crimes or help heal the Penn State community," the statement said.

"We believe the only way to help the victims is to uncover the full truth.

[Audio: Pat Forde on Joe Paterno's statue and pending PSU sanctions]

The Freeh report, though it has been accepted by the media as the definitive conclusion on the Sandusky scandal, is the equivalent of an indictment - a charging document written by a prosecutor -- and an incomplete and unofficial one at that."

The statue's future had been the subject of much debate that intensified significantly after the release of the Freeh Report. (The Paterno family announced shortly after the report's release that they were conducting their own investigation.) Now that it has been decided the debate about what action the NCAA should take remains, albeit for just a few more hours.

[Related: Eric Adelson: Joe Paterno statue debate misses the point]


Anonymous said...

Not the first failure of leadership at a University, nor will it be the last. I'm pleased the statue of Joe Paterno was taken down.

Removing statues, changing names at a university is sometimes a good idea. No longer is there a (Jefferson) Davis Hall at Transylvania. I think our Lexington basketball arena should not bear the name of the man it does, but of course racism is not illegal while child molestation is.

Anonymous said...

Wonder what they are going to do with the statue? May need to ebay in order to recoup some of the lost revenue. I am sure a dissaffected alumus with deep pockets would be willing to buy it for his basement or bring it out for tailgating.