Well, I'm in the land of hoagies and Wawa (or as Governor Romney says, Wawas) briefly. I had hoped to see Dan Filler, but this is an abbreviated and sudden trip and time is short. Probably won't even have a chance to see much in the way of Pennsylvania monuments -- and certainly not the monument that everyone here is talking about: the JoePa Statue in State College. (And thanks to Howard Wasserman for prompting me to talk a little bit about this.)
There are two things I want to talk about -- first something on the statue and then something on the punishment Penn State may suffer at the hands of the NCAA. As to the statue, long-time readers of the faculty lounge may recall that I'm not a fan of removing monuments, largely because I think they remind us of the ideas of people in the past. And even though we now think differently from people in the past, I think it a bad idea to remove monuments that remind us of the past. It's a different story if a monument falls down, as happened in Reidsville recently. I'm not in favor of putting up any new statues to the defense of slavery, though some people in the south obviously disagree with me. The Sons of Confederate Veterans put up a new monument in Oakwood Cemetery, for instance, in 2007 and another one was put up in 2009 at the Bloody Angle.
There are a lot of factors one should consider in statue removal -- like who had a say in the inital placement, what was known at the time of placement, what is known now, and the meaning of the statue now. A lot of those factors counsel in favor of removal, I suppose -- we didn't know about JoePa's involvement in what appears to have been a cover-up. But I continue to think that the monument should be left up; now it can serve as a reminder of what happened. It tells a story about a person who was central to Penn State for more than fifty years. While we may now think differently about JoePa from how we all thought about him when I was growing up in Pennsylvania, perhaps we should recall the positive contributions he made to the state and University, as well as the unfortunate and destructive things that happened there. This is, after all, an extended story about human nature. But we'll see what happens; perhaps in the theme of action the trustees will figure the statue has to go.
Now, as to the appropriate punishment. Let me preface this by saying, I have no significant interest in football. You may recall that my job prospects at Alabama turned on one scrap of information about OU football. And though I attended -- and enjoyed -- some Alabama football games, I'm not a football fan. I say this to show that I'm not a rapid Penn State booster with an ax to grind. I'm an impartial -- if anything hostile -- party here. I sincerely hope that PSU won't cancel the football season -- or two -- and that the NCAA won't take that dramatic step, either. Look, the person who committed the crimes is sitting in prison; he'll almost certainly be there for the rest of his life. The people who were involved in some ways of covering this up or facilitating Sandusky's acts are all gone from the university. The University has fired Graham Spanier from the presidency (though I take it he's still a tenured professor); the coach is gone. The person most at fault is being punished; others have lost their jobs and reputation. The University looks by all accounts that it'll have enormous liability to the victims. Punishment there is aplenty, aimed at the people most responsible.
Then there are the innocent people who would suffer if the season -- or more -- is canceled. Let's start with the fans, who had absolutely nothing to do with this and never in any way endorsed the criminal acts at the center of this. Nobody thinks any of the fans have any tolerance for this; then there are the businesses, which if State College is anything like Tuscaloosa, absolutely depend on football season for their livelihood. Then there are the players and the current students. I'm certainly familiar with the idea of a school's corporate identity -- and have suggested that as the basis for asking for an apology from institutions that once owned human beings. And while I recognize that PSU is a corporate entity, I hope there'll be some sense of proportionality in all this and that the innocent third parties, who have a lot at stake here and are, quite frankly, dependent on football, won't suffer unduly.
I might also add that at some point perhaps we should take a measure of what the victims themselves think about canceling the season. I'm not sure that should be dispositive, but at least it's worth hearing from them.
Update: The mob mentality regarding the JoePa statue is, unsurprisingly, in full operation. Here is Philly talk radio host Dom Giordano's op-ed piece attacking in broad terms PSU and, of course, professors. Giordano urges taking down the statue. It paints with a broad brush -- but what interests me in particular are that he thinks the issue of the statue should -- in essence -- be put to a vote of the people of Pennsylvania. He thinks this is an issue for everyone in the state, not just the University, its students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
Also, the Penn State student newspaper, The Daily Collegian is filled with talk of monument removal and name changes -- changing the name of Paternoville, which is just outside the stadium; Brown Universit's thinking fof renaming its Paterno award; and removal of the Paterno statue. I've never seen anything like this.
And Adam Bittner has an op-ed at the Daily Collegian that also argues the Paterno statue should remain -- again because it will be a monument to errors of the past. I'm beginning to think that efforts to remove the statue in this case are efforts at burying an unpleasant past, which makes me even more opposed to removing the statue. As I've said before in the context of Yale's removal of a portrait of it's namesake Elihu Yale being waited on by an enslaved child, be wary of those in power who want to remove monuments.
Steve Clowney has some important and apt thoughts about the JoePa Statue, in a post entitled, "Remove the JoePa Statue" over at properyprof. I think Steve's going to get his wish; public sentiment on the ground in Pennsylvania is really running against the statue. Though I might note that some twitter uses (or at least one twitter user) are (is) coming to the defense of JoePa. @fightercowboy tweeted on July 13: "@JoePaStatue you will never be taken down. Over my dead body and with 1000s of rounds of spent shells." I'm sure that was a hyperbole on his part.
I might add that another model than removal would be to add another monument or plaque, which might put the statue and controversy into context. Assuming the statue is removed, I'll be curious how -- if at all -- this affects the calculations regarding building names on college campuses.