Student Press Corps Commentary on Penn State Scandal

Glenn Ricketts

  1. With the recent release of the Freeh Report, the Penn State sexual abuse scandal was front page news again, and campus journalists weighed in.  While commentary focused on the specific events at PSU itself, several pieces suggested that these were symptomatic of some widespread with collegiate athletics and governance.  Not surprisingly, there was extensive coverage of the story at Penn State itself. The editorial staff of the Daily Collegian placed the tragedy within the context of a virtual cult that had arisen around the school’s football program and its once-legendary coach Joe Paterno, and suggested that the university’s board of directors still had much to learn about transparency.  Individual columnists also viewed the scandal from various angles, including this one who explains why, even now, the campus statue of coach Paterno should remain in place.  The paper’s football editor reaches the same conclusion, but for very different reasons. 
  2. The story generated extensive commentary elsewhere as well, and a guest columnist for the MSU State News wondered what it was like to be at Penn State and come to terms with the fall of idols.  For one reporter at the U of Nevada’s Rebel Yell, no amount of football glory or local philanthropy could possibly absolve Joe Paterno’s conduct in the affair, also the view of this colleague at the University of Houston’s Daily Cougar.  The only appropriate “legacy” now is infamy.  But a sports writer for the Arizona Daily Wildcat argues that you can’t blame everything on Paterno: the Penn State scandal was, in the most perverse sense, a team effort.  His counterpart at the OSU Lantern believes that Penn State’s travails reflected the dysfunctional condition of big-time collegiate athletics and the self-promotion of the schools where they reside.  The editorial board of the Oklahoma Daily call for greater transparency and public accountability, citing the PSU administration’s continued evasion of public disclosure laws and concealment of incriminating documents. Still another view comes from the former sports editor of the U of New Mexico’s Daily Lobo, who faults his own guild members for the uncritical hero worship which colors their view of college athletics, especially football. 
  3. Sexuality often routinely makes the news on campus as a staple of discussion, advice or occasional perplexity.  This Dad, for example, offers readers of the Oklahoma Daily some reflections on sex toys, purity balls and the danger of mixed signals for his daughter.  Elsewhere in the same paper, the editors express disappointment that the university’s president decided not to follow through with a proposal for gender-neutral housing on campus.  And at the KSU Collegian, a staffer reckons that, in view of the crude media sexuality and incomplete information that bombards children from an early age, it’s vital that they be taught the straight stuff in public school sex education programs.  They’re not going to get it anywhere else.  Sexuality and humor are standard issue with comedians and late-night TV hosts, but a Los Angeles night club comic’s rape jokes didn’t strike this columnist for the Independent Florida Alligator as the least bit funny.  That’s essentially the view of another writer at the U of M Diamondback, but he concludes that some women may still want to laugh and that’s OK.  But a regular for the Indiana Daily Student views the episode as one of free speech,: and if you’re not enamored of rape jokes or any other variety, then don’t listen to them. 
  4. Environmental issues often cover a wide sweep, from the campus cafeteria to foreign policy. Thus, the editorial staff of the Purdue Exponent offer some advice on better energy alternatives for their school, while a columnist for the Johns-Hopkins Newsletter calls for the creation of an international force to safeguard the arctic environment from incursions by business interests.  At the same time, a writer for the Daily Utah Chronicle argues that you can eat healthy food and improve the economy at the same time: buy your produce at the local organic farmers market.  The editors of the Minnesota Daily applaud their university’s efforts to promote sustainability, but still believe that it needs to make students more aware of the seriousness of the issue.  At the University Daily Kansan, a biology major notes that, although the 2010 BP oil spill is no longer in the news, it continues to harm marine life in the Gulf of Mexico.  But on a somewhat different note, an incoming Stanford freshman writes in The Daily that although she’s still an environmentalist, she’s taken several steps back from the apocalyptic views that she once found persuasive.  Contrary to expectations, the sky hasn’t fallen.  Similarly, a colleague at the Iowa State Daily thinks that global warming alarmists have gone way over the top, and need to take a cold shower.  Finally, a staffer at the University of Houston’s Daily Cougar thinks that the much-ballyhooed Rio environmental conference – 20 years after the fabled initial gathering in 1992 – was a dismal flop. 
  5. The Occupy Wall Street movement made an encore appearance of sorts, with a columnist for the Oklahoma Daily wishing that Americans would demand change as forcefully as folks did in Egypt and Tunisia.  His counterpart at the Brandeis Justice registers his approval of OWS and similar protests, but argues that participants need to maintain their decorum in the tradition of Martin Luther King if they want to avoid alienating the public.  A different take is offered by a political writer in the UCal/Irvine New University, where she describes the unique role of Women Occupying Wall Street.  But for a financial analyst at the U of A’s Crimson and White, OWS is done, since the public weren’t interested in a frontal assault on American capitalism.  That’s not the view of an activist at UC/Irvine, though, who explains to readers of the New University why she’s anti-Walmart. 
  6. Gender and women’s issues are usually a staple of undergraduate press commentary, and lest you think that feminism is no longer necessary, a writer for the KSU Collegian asks that you take a look at the persisting male/female national wage gap.  And as the Olympic Games commence in London, the sports editor for the Daily Illini celebrates the 1972 enactment of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act as a milestone in women’s athletics. Meanwhile, on the subject of Olympic competitive categories, a regular op ed commentator for the Stanford Daily argues that it would be unwise to eliminate distinct categories between male and female athletes. Commenting on the proper scope of government health care, a guest columnist for the USC Daily Trojan argues that it ought to include contraceptives.  A number of respondents take issue.  Along somewhat similar lines, a staffer – a guy, as it happens - for the MSU State News argues that because abortion is such a quintessentially female issue, male legislators should have no input in crafting laws affecting it.  A guest columnist at the same paper wonders, for all of the international rejoicing at the upheavals of the Arab Spring, what the fate awaits Egyptian women, should the Muslim Brotherhood take control of the country. At the UW/ Eau Claire Spectator, a regular writer deplores the widely prevalent, internalized misogyny among young women known as “girl hate,” and offers some thoughts on overcoming it.  Finally, a regular for the Minnesota Daily argues that the state’s prison system needs to consider providing accommodation for  transgendered inmates.; her counterpart at the UCLA Daily Bruin thinks much more needs to be done to make the LGBT community feels “included.” 
  7. One of the great joys of summertime reading is the fact that you can do it voluntarily – it’s not an assignment, says a computer science major in the pages of the U of A Crimson and White.  And if you’re going to read anything, a colleague at the Oklahoma Daily hopes that you’ll do it the old-fashioned way – with a book.  
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