Thursday, July 26, 2012

Perhaps it's a stretch, but maybe the Korean state can learn from Penn State

I'm sitting here on an eight-hour plane ride from Fukuoka to Honolulu, too bleary-eyed to read the English subtitles on the distant monitor showing the third or fourth Japanese rogue cop movie in a row (they promised Marigold Hotel \ where the heck is it?!), so I'm looking through the last save my iPad made of the NYT.

Inevitably, the Penn State disgrace comes up. The NCAA has dealt the school and it's famed football program \ which systemically ignored obvious sex abuse of children because it didn't want to derail the money train \ a brutal blow.

Given the punishingly harsh publicity Penn State and the once saintly Paterno have received, it's not all that surprising that the hammer would come down so hard on the program and the university. Nor all that disappointing. While it's inherently unfair to those who had absolutely nothing to do with this case that they are (indirectly) being punished, a message has to be sent that such egregious behavior (and not just the child molester Sandusky's) should never be tolerated, especially when protecting profits is the primary motivation for ignoring or burying the horrendous abuse.

Sex assault, whether child molestation or rape of an adult or some other similar assault, leaves its victims so scarred, and often truly effed-up... there's just no way to overstate the seriousness with which these cases should be taken (and prevented in the first place). If you have no idea what I'm talking about, I pray you never do.

Those were my thoughts since the Sandusky case and the subsequent coverup came to light, a nearly identical reaction as when the systemic abuse within the Catholic clergy was exposed layer by layer. But as I read the NYT piece just hours after leaving Seoul, I couldn't help but think of similar coverups and the general habit of looking the other way when sex abuse occurs in institutions that fear their image will be damaged if those cases become publicly known.

I think it is easy to see loose parallels between Penn State and, say, regional communities in south Korea where serial sexual assault had occurred and the police bullied the victims and their parents into silence. In some cases the parents were chided for ruining the reputation of their towns, a familiar refrain.

But local communities don't have the equivalent of the NCAA. Sadly, there is no real incentive to make sure those cases of systemic abuse are pursued with due diligence, except for the remote possibility of even worse publicity when the coverup itself is exposed.

If I can track it down, I will write something up on the editorial cartoon that appeared in Wednesday's Korea Herald, which suggested equivalency between what Jerry Sandusky did to his child victims and what Bill Clinton did with Monica Lewinsky.

From The New York Times:

NEWS ANALYSIS: Real N.C.A.A. Penalty for Penn State, but No Cheers Yet

Although the punishment was harsh, the outsize role of money in college sports may be a bigger factor in the degree to which the Penn State scandal will resonate at universities.

This succinct email was sent from my iPad.

1 comment:

  1. I dunno, because I don't really think the US can learn from Penn State. I don't find the NCAA punishment particularly harsh, and it's especially ridiculous that the president was able to basically negotiate the terms: agreeing to the current sanctions instead of the four-year death penalty that the NCAA had coming. $60 million over five years isn't that much, and is about what a coaching staff would earn. Not being bowl-eligible for four years, not being able to recruit (much), and not being very good for 7 or 8 years means they basically turn into Minnesota or Indiana for the rest of the decade . . . big deal.

    And now by giving a half-assed punishment, the NCAA has allowed Penn State and their fans to make the program seem the victims.

    I come from a Penn State family, so I can sort of see how it is in that "football culture", the cult(ure) that allowed the program to get so huge and to make a cover-up so easy. The sexual abuse is really only one part of it. The football team's players had been getting into legal trouble over the past few years b/c of on- and off-campus stuff, and yet Joe Paterno wouldn't allow them to be punished. When alumni, fans, or townspeople talk about how the innocents are being punished, they fail to see that they all share some of the responsibility for allowing the program to get so big.

    But the thing is, that culture exists at practically every major university, and among a lot of pro teams as well. Americans are too obsessed with sports and have lost sight of what universities ought to be about. Do you think the scandal and cover-up will make people re-think their priorities and how much time they devote to their sports idols? Maybe . . . but I look at the reaction from State College and among some of the fans ("It was our 9/11") and I'm not confident.


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