Thousands of Penn State University students rioted late Wednesday night to protest the firing of head football coach Joe Paterno in the fallout of a child-rape scandal. Just after 10 p.m. Wednesday, the Penn State board of trustees announced the immediate termination of university president Graham Spanier and of Paterno, who had stated he would finish out the current football season. A rebuttal mob formed in front of Old Main, the school’s administrative offices, and chanted, “Fuck the trustees! Fuck the trustees!”
Penn State’s enflamed student body needs to absorb a lesson it's been slow in learning: Aiding and abetting a child rapist is either acceptable behavior, or it is not.
The students swarmed the town’s main drag, Beaver Avenue, pulled down a lamppost, and overturned a police car and a news van, expressing their solidarity with Paterno in the most articulate manner within their grasp.
Admittedly, Penn State University is situated in the United States of America, where anyone charged with a crime, even a (then) 58-year-old man accused of the anal rape of a 10-year-old boy, is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
This presumption of innocence permits Penn State’s defensive coordinator emeritus Jerry Sandusky to move freely (loosely speaking) about Happy Valley preparing for a trial by his peers. Without the presumption of innocence, Sandusky, now 67, would be locked in a dank cell awaiting swift execution of sentence.
But sufficient first-hand collaboration has been presented to establish Sandusky as, in all probability, a man who leveraged his position of trust and authority within the insular hierarchy of a revered athletic program to subject young boys to forced oral copulation and anal sodomy.
Some facts are beyond dispute: The godlike father figure of Penn State’s revered football program, head coach Joe Paterno, received credible evidence of his subordinate’s sexual predations almost 10 years ago, and failed to act in any effective way to protect children in the predator’s charge.
Wednesday night’s rioting ended with a few students being led away in handcuffs. Perhaps a bit of cool-off time will allow them, and the rest of Penn State’s enflamed student body, to absorb a lesson it has been slow in learning: Aiding and abetting a child rapist is either acceptable behavior, or it is not.