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Letter: Penn State investigation did not follow due process

2:30 PM EDT, August 17, 2012

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When I saw the title of Stan Ber's Aug. 9 Bits & Pieces article, "Wrong priorities have caused damage to Penn State's image," I had reason for hope.

Sadly, the theme of the story was simply a rehash of the same old media hype — football ruled Penn State and Joe Paterno was king. Glimmers of truth shone through in his article with "People rarely talked about the excellent education that students received there." But he neglected to mention the excellent graduation rate of Penn State's student-athletes (87 percent), consistently the highest in the nation.

I agree with his assessment that the wrong priorities have caused damage to Penn State's image. However, I disagree with his belief that Joe Paterno and football are the cause of these skewed priorities. For this dysfunction, we Penn Staters have to thank our ineffective board of trustees, who have consistently botched their fiduciary responsibilities.

Perhaps Mr. Ber is familiar with a little document called the Constitution of the United States of America?

The Fifth Amendment allows for an important right called "due process," a right denied to Joe Paterno before his firing and to the university before the NCAA handed down its sanctions.

I'm of the belief that our Constitution and the rights it affords our citizens extend to all citizens. Ironically, the only person in this whole debacle who has received due process has been Jerry Sandusky.

Most troublesome to me is that by continuing to focus on football, we as a society are missing the opportunity to fix the process of child abuse reporting.

How is it that the two people who stepped forward to report a crime, however imperfectly, were summarily fired? Two janitors who also witnessed crimes, but did not report them, were not punished in any way. Where is the outrage over this inaction? This makes no sense to me. What kind of behaviors do we as a society want to encourage going forward?

And how about The Second Mile Foundation, where Jerry Sandusky hand-picked his victims? Where are they in all this mess? Silent. Missing in Action. Yet, it is clear when one reads their annual reports that something was amiss within that organization.

In 2008, Jerry Sandusky slipped out of view and by 2009 he was no longer an active participant because a Second Mile senior executive suspected him of child molestation.

Finally, I'll conclude by addressing Mr. Ber's statement, "It is time that colleges recognize that their only purpose is to educate."

I would suggest that education takes many forms, some of which occurs outside the classroom, not seated at a desk. The lessons Coach Joe Paterno taught his students, both on and off the field, are those which have lingered long after the final whistle has blown. His father's words to him compel us now to "Make an Impact." And so we will.

For the Glory,

Debby Rippey

Editor's note: Rippey is a "proud Penn State alumna." She graduated in 1991.