Well, it was easily predicatable that the JoePa statue would be removed, so it was no surprise to me. I'm particularly interested in how Penn State's interim president, Rodney Erickson, explained the decision:
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. 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.
As I indicated last week, I think there's a strong case to be made for removal, even though I thought it would be better to keep the statue in order to remind us of the past -- both the positive and the negative. Completely unsurprisingly, Penn State sees the statue as divisive and thus took it down. That, what they're hoping for now is an episode of forgetting. They have, of course, framed this in a positive way as part of the healing process -- and with that I'm in agreement. I guess no one ever consulted the victims; and maybe there was no reason to do so. But I continue to be troubled by the removal of a statue because it has become a sore point; this is what I would expect of a corporation; change the statue or the name as a way of getting past the bad publicity. This happens when the University should be acknowledging the past.
Whatever. Now I'm interested in what this precedent means for other campaigns for monument removal. Are we going to see other monuments to people we now realize were pretty bad people, like, umm, Nathan Bedford Forrest, removed? If not, what's the material difference from the JoePa statue? I'm not in favor of monument removal, but Steve Clowney is beginning to convince me that statues to Confederate officers can speak to the African American community in rather unpleasant ways even now.
The University will not be changing the Paterno Library's name, however. This is the justification for this:
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. 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.
I think there are a lot of differences between the statue and the Paterno library -- beginning with the fact that the library isn't a place where football fans come to celebrate. The Paterno library is a place where serious work is done. The library may also have been named as part of a gift, so I'm not sure the University could change the name without giving the money back -- or at all.
@JoePaStatue, I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this. And I'm looking forward to the discussion about what this precedent means for other schools and other monuments. I'm sure Steve Clowney, Tom Russell, Howard Wasserman, and a bunch of other law profs are going to be analyzing this for a while.