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Monday, July 16, 2012
Public memorials and Penn State

Legal historian Al Brophy of UNC and the Faculty Lounge writes some interesting stuff on public memorials and monuments, particularly in the South. This has become the new locus of discussion at Penn State, as the trustees and others try to figure out what to do with the Paterno iconography that dots Penn State and State College. These include a statue, the family name on the university library, and a famous mural in town (the mural artist recently removed the halo from over Paterno's head).

The current sentiment on the Board of Trustees is to leave the statue, at least for now and pending a broader public discussion) I was struck by the comment of one trustee, who insisted "The statue represents the good that Joe did. It doesn't represent the bad that he did." Can they have it both ways like that? Can a monument to someone with a divided legacy (as Paterno now has) simply remain in place, pretending there was no bad? Do the trustees at least have to acknowledge in the public conversation that they are determining that the good Paterno did outweighs the bad and thus warrants keeping the statute (a reasonable position)? I actually don't particularly care what they do with the statue; I'm more interested in how the conversation about the statue honestly addresses that Paterno genuinely did something wrong and the statute represents that just as much as everything else.

Actually, I am far more disturbed by the announcement that they are going to renovate the locker rooms and shower areas where some of Sandusky's assaults took place. While this has been described as an attempt to "erase the legacy of Sandusky's crimes," it also strikes me as an actual and symbolic attempt to whitewash the past in a way that covers the university's role in those crimes. I am not suggesting they have to turn the shower into a shrine or a museum. But their first response is to bury the crime scene. And to get a shiny new athletics facilities, when the special treatment of athletics is a major part of this whole mess.


Florida State coach Bobby Bowden wants Paterno’s statue gone because, “Every time they play a game in that stadium, the cameras are going to flash down on that statue of Joe, and it’s going to bring up again this thing with Sandusky.” This is exactly why it must remain. If not, on a crisp fall day in front of 100,000 cheering fans, we will hear “how refreshing it is that the student body has gotten past its dark moment.”
Alongside the statue build a “never again” garden which students are encouraged to visit. Athletic departments at Penn St and elsewhere will be very ready to put “this thing with Sandusky”, as Bowden delicately states, out the memory of the student body, the public and their large donors.

Blogger Cynic -- 7/16/2012 12:31 PM  

An appropriate penalty would be to require Penn State to forfeit all of its football victories since Paterno learned of Sandusky's criminal acts but failed to report them. (This might be 1998, or it might be earlier.)

This would remove Paterno's name from the top of the all-time coaching victories list and from any association with coaching excellence.

I'm not saying that this should be the only penalty, but it should be part of the penalty.

Anonymous J Gordon Hylton -- 7/18/2012 10:18 AM  

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