Universities are people, too

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The reaction to the stiff fines and other penalties levied by the NCAA and the Big Ten against Penn State last year were mixed and are still a subject of debate to this day, and this debate presents a lesson we can all benefit from as we consider questions of ethics and "cultures" on our campuses.

Many applauded the actions, saying that they were well deserved and would send a strong message to all athletic programs -- and, indeed, to all universities in general. Others, however, insisted that the penalties were unfair and draconian. In the days immediately following the release of the Freeh report, the national media interviewed countless people for their reaction, and while opinion was all over the map, a sizable number of people interviewed said something like, "It's not fair to punish the whole institution and especially the students for the actions of only four men."

Those holding this position reasoned that while the college president and others might very well be guilty of covering up the scandal, they and not others should bear the brunt of whatever punishment was meted out. The penalties imposed by the NCAA and the Big Ten -- huge monetary fines, a substantial restriction in the number of athletic scholarships the institution would be allowed to award and the expunging of the institution's football victories from 1998 to 2011 -- affect the entire institution.

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