The news that Penn State has reached a financial settlement with 26 victims of monstrous abuse by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky will come as closure to some. That’s a natural reaction.
But Marci Hamilton wants more. An attorney for two men waiting to finalize their deals believes that the money, while appreciated, isn’t the most important part of the school’s responsibility. She’s right.
Without continued training of PSU’s faculty, staff and coaches, there can be no real peace for the victims. Even if Penn State paid each victim $1 billion, it wouldn’t matter if the culture that allowed Sandusky to prey on the boys weren’t changed completely.
To its credit, PSU has done a lot right to this point and hasn’t spent the past two years complaining about the situation. Yes, it took pressure from a variety of constituencies to make the university recognize its responsibility fully, but the school seems committed to doing the right thing. These settlements continue that trend.
Now, it’s time to keep going. Whenever there is a tragedy, those impacted promise to eliminate the chances of it happening again. Sometimes, time erodes the commitment, allowing attitudes and practices to change. That cannot happen at Penn State. Like it or not, this distasteful episode is going to be part of the university’s personality for years, if not decades, to come. Penn State must live with that and remain vigilant in its pursuit of an environment in which nothing like it could ever come close to occurring again.
It’s tough for some graduates, employees, students and fans to embrace that, especially since they had nothing to do with Sandusky’s disgusting behavior. Being associated with a school that has been stained so profoundly is a badge no one wants to wear. But when awful things happen on the scale at which they did in State College, there is unfortunate collateral damage that cannot be erased with just some big checks.
The same goes for the shame and damage borne by the victims. Yes, there is some closure, thanks to PSU’s admission of guilt and the payouts, but the scars remain. It’s unfair to ask people who have suffered so to think of future generations and understand that what has happened in the past can protect people years from now. For them, nothing will completely heal the wounds. That’s why Penn State must continue to educate. To remember. To seek the truth and not hide from any revelations that come out, especially during the upcoming trials of former president Graham Spanier, retired VP Gary Schultz and retired athletic director Tim Curley. Penn State must show the same courage the victims do every day. That way, this can never happen again.
The money helps, but the real work continues.