The Freeh Report on the child rape scandal and cover up at the Pennsylvania State University is a frightening glimpse into what can occur when an educational institution, from top to bottom, forgets what its purpose is.
Though the institution in question is one horrifically malignant example, that singularity should not make anyone, in any school, feel comfortable. One of the key things former FBI chief Louis Freeh's report does so well is to point out the very common mis-steps, many going back decades or even more than half a century, which led the Pennsylvania State University into this criminal place, and it is vital reading, because at so many levels of education - especially in the United States where being an educational institution conflates with so many other tangentially connected roles - the seeds of "the next Penn State" lie in fertile ground.
|Case Hall at MSU houses both jocks and top students,|
but that does not suggest that Michigan State students and programs
are treated equally.
|Magic Johnson and the "Cannabis University [Fourth Floor of South Case Hall] Jointrollers"|
both played on this court in the 1970s
|Splendid isolation from the campus and the norms of society:|
The Lasch Building at Penn State (above)
The Skandalaris Football Building at Michigan State (below)
And when the football team's star running back assaulted a teacher at a school-sponsored camp one summer, he was suspended for one game - that easy, non-conference opponent game which began the season.
|Penn State Women's|
Rene Portland sexually
harassed players for decades
What do we do now?
The only good thing I see which has come out of the Penn State crimes right now is the sudden commitment of Pennsylvania educators and politicians to the idea that "punishment doesn't work." I've seen that all over blogs in the past couple of days, and this is huge progress for a state last seen trying to charge an 11-year-old as an adult for murder. Pennsylvania has almost 500 people serving life sentences for crimes they committed as children, so it is fabulous to see that the Commonwealth will, apparently, revisit all of this, along with those in prison for drugs, and those currently on public sex offender lists.
I agree, punishment doesn't work, but required changes in behavior can work, and the Pennsylvania State University, the institution and community which together built the toxic culture Freeh's report speaks of, needs required changes in behavior. We know this not because a few morons gathered at the statue of child-rape-collaborator, but because, on the day after the Freeh Report's release, Penn State's one action was to announce that it would be spending money to renovate - yes - the Lasch Football Building. If anything says, "we don't get it," that bizarre news moment does.
Thankfully, European Football - the football with feet and no helmets - offers the answer. And we reach across the sea for new solutions when our issues overwhelm our old solutions.
|Chilling: The Paterno statue right after Sanduskey's arrest.|
Do one more thing. End the football culture for four years. End it. When it returns, make sure it is part of the university, and that is is not the university.
UEFA, the European Football Association - and other global football associations worldwide - has the solution. When culture is the problem, culture is eliminated, and teams are required to play their home games in empty stadiums. This solution is used against clubs big and small, and it is effective. It targets - directly - the culture which lies at the heart of the problem.
in Kenya, a team endures the empty stadium
|A Turkish team deals with the silence of fan misbehavior|
Let the games go on, but let the culture die.
- Ira Socol