Penn State Punishment: An Alumnus' Reaction to NCAA Sanctions

Tom Kinslow@@TomKinslowFeatured ColumnistJuly 23, 2012

The last thing anyone should be talking about today is college football.

Nor should we be talking about Joe Paterno's legacy, his statue and what all of this means from a recruiting aspect. All of it is mindless noise that only distracts society from the bigger issues at play here—our tendency to put blind faith in institutions and how dangerous that can be.

After all, that's how we got here. Everyone: students, alumni and faculty, put blind faith in the leadership at Penn State to do the right thing and it has cost the university dearly. Many will focus on the university's football program and how it will recover from the NCAA's staggering sanctions, but in the grand scheme of things, it's not important.

Now is the time for Penn State to move on from things it cannot change, heal as a community and go about ensuring that the university lives up to it's academic mission. Playing the victim and adding to the mindless debate that will follow in the coming days does nothing but distract us.

Life will go on, games will be played and people will live their lives. These sanctions don't fix the issues at Penn State, nor do they prevent things like this from happening at another university, and that's why the focus should be on societal change.

We need to focus on proactive solutions to make sure that we hold our institutions accountable for their action and demand a level of openness that will allow us to protect our children from predators like Jerry Sandusky. It's easy to wash your hands of a scandal once drastic penalties are handed down, but that has never influenced change.

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Penn State and its massive alumni base know this better than most and that's why they have to be leaders in this vital area. 

The Penn State community must demand accountability and openness from a university that has traditionally shunned such exposure in the past. It is also time for the students and alumni to create and maintain an active role in helping charities that deal with abused and neglected children.

These are values and mindsets that have to be established in each and every community across the country. Never believe for a second that you can put blind faith in your leaders to do what's right. As we've learned time and time again, people are fallible, and if unchecked they can do great damage to communities and the institutions they are trusted with.

We have seen what scandals of this magnitude can do to our society and we must take a stand. It is time to change the way we approach sports and how they shape our universities and their ethical approach.

A school is bigger than any one sports program, and we must demand that our universities live up to their academic mission instead of catering the cash cows that pad the bottom line and lead to moral corruption at the highest levels of power.

While everyone will be talking about what this means for Penn State's recruiting class, current players and product on the field, I urge everyone to re-evaluate the way they look at institutions and how their leaders do business.

If we don't, the horrible, terrifying lessons we learned during this tragedy will be lost, and it's only a matter of time before leaders at a prestigious institution betray our trust and do irreparable harm to our communities. 


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