COMMENTARY | Penn State has seen lots of tragedy in the past year. Jerry Sandusky, the former football assistant coach who has been found guilty of sexually assaulting multiple minor boys in his care, has tainted the vaunted university’s reputation for years, if not decades. Late head football coach Joe Paterno, an NCAA legend, has seen his legacy erode drastically after he was fired in disgrace. The NCAA gutted the historic record of Penn State’s Nittany Lions football team and limited its scholarship fund. But now there’s even further trouble for Pennsylvania’s flagship university: According to CNN , the Middle States Commission on Higher Education is apparently considering removing the school’s academic accreditation.
This is overkill. The powers that be should focus on targeting the administrators and authority figures who allowed Sandusky’s horrid actions to continue for years, not the university itself. Thousands of people rely on the university’s academic accreditation to earn valuable degrees and launch careers. Losing academic accreditation would mean the loss of federal grants and financial aid, possibly decimating the college hopes of many less-than-wealthy students. Should young people from Pennsylvania towns and cities lose their chances at higher education because we’re upset at Sandusky and his do-nothing higher-ups?
Penn State messed up, no doubt about it. But, sadly, we know from studies of psychology and sociology that university administrators from any college in the United States would be tempted to act in the same hands-off, out-of-sight-out-of-mind way. What happened at Penn State could just as easily happen at UCLA, the Ohio University, Harvard, Michigan State, or your nearest land-grant college. Why punish the students of Penn State for something that, horribly enough, could happen anywhere?
Furthermore, the negligence of administrators speaks little about the teaching skill or academic rigor of the professors and lecturers actually handling Penn State’s many college courses. Aside from hurting students by reducing their financial assistance, Penn State’s loss of academic accreditation could hurt the careers of many professors who did nothing wrong and were in no way connected to the university’s football program. And if professors face loss of funding, what of the thousands of non-academic staff at Penn State?
Colleges and universities are in enough of a budget crunch in today’s recession. Why arbitrarily reduce the funding to a major flagship university before the recession does it? It seems cruel, petty, and done out of anger rather than justice.