Upon the verdict in the Jerry Sandusky child molestation trial this past week, I remembered a short discussion board writing I did for class this past Fall semester – please forgive the 5-paragraph essay format. We were asked to give our thoughts on how Penn State University should attempt to ‘rebuild’ after the horrific allegations came to light. (Please remember the below was written in the Fall before the trial and many facts had come out – but in my opinion, much of it still holds true about what the university should do moving forward.) I would like to share my thoughts…
Due to the popularity of sport in America, it is only natural that any sort of scandal will be covered with intense media scrutiny. But, when the scandal itself transcends sport and begins to affect something much larger, be it our educational system or even our simplest human instinct, that media scrutiny becomes a firestorm. For Penn State University, it was their university that was the landing spot for this epic firestorm. While it is difficult to grasp the scope of the overall damage done to the university, going forward, one must hope Penn State can be defined by more than this horrendous scandal. Besides seeing the perpetrator of these alleged heinous acts taken to justice, the next thing Penn State must do is worry about rebuilding their once prestigious reputation and restoring its integrity. In order to accomplish such a daunting task, Penn State should create three new positions throughout the university: a Director of Local Partnerships, a Director of the ‘We are Blue’ Campaign, and an Independent Advisor for Compliance and Regulation within Faculty.
Being the tight knit community that State College, PA is, Penn State must make sure their standing within the local community is restored. Creating a position designed to reach out to the strongest local partnerships is a critical step for the university. While it seems likely there may be some hesitation for many cooperate companies to partner with the university at this time, Penn State should focus on the smaller companies of its community. While admittedly not being under the most ideal circumstances, Penn State should view this terrible event as an opportunity to reestablish neighboring ties and thank their locals for the past and future loyalty. Without knowing specifics of their existing partnerships with local businesses, it is probably safe to assume the university has, at times, neglected some loyal supporters in order to appease corporate partners with far deeper pockets. The Director of Local Partnerships would be responsible for acting as an intimate liaison between the university and local businesses. Lots of face time with candid answers about the past, as well as promotion of where the university is headed, would slowly start healing the betrayal that locals may feel due to recent events. By restarting the partnerships at a grassroots level, Penn State could eventually use successful local relationships as a model to reel in the bigger corporations they will eventually need. The Director of Local Partnerships would have to exhibit a versatile blend of public relations, marketing, and even sales in order to regain the local’s trust of the university. By initially starting small and local, Penn State can first reestablish their base before attempting to take their brand rebuilding larger and more national.
As far as the national stage is concerned, the most important thing Penn State can do at this moment is to enact a nationwide Child Abuse Awareness campaign entitled the ‘We Are Blue’ campaign. Led by the newly created position, Director of ‘We Are Blue’, the movement would promote the under-acknowledged issue of child abuse, focusing especially on abuse sexual in nature. Spinning off the school’s battle cry of ‘We Are Penn State’, the ‘We Are Blue’ campaign is a natural fit. The most obvious reason to use ‘Blue’ is that it is not only is the color if Penn State’s famous uniforms, but also is the color of the ribbon that symbolizes child abuse awareness. In a move that would seem shocking to some college football purists, putting a blue ribbon decal on the back of Penn State’s helmet would be a symbolic alteration to their notoriously simple, never-changing uniforms. This action would be a loud statement by the university that says ‘there some things in life are more important than the tradition of our school’s football program’. As simple as the placement of a ribbon on a helmet may seem to some, others would view it as a seismic change to a program seemingly stuck in the dark ages. Penn State would not be running from the terrifying events that took place, but instead would be acknowledging them and doing everything in their power to make sure it never happens again. The ‘We Are Blue’ campaign would be funded in large part by the football programs strong revenues in order to prevent costs that may take away from other programs on campus. Whether the school likes it or not, they are considered to have played a large part of the horrific events that took place. At this time, they should be overly aggressive in creating a new image that shows Penn State as a driving force in creating awareness and prevention of the abuse of children. The ‘We Are Blue’ campaign would hopefully accomplish that.
The third position that Penn State should create is titled: Independent Advisor of Compliance and Regulation within Faculty (IACRF). In order to establish as much credibility for the position as possible, Penn State should ask the state government to create the IACRF position, and ask that the position not answer to the university or its trustees, but instead to the government directly. This chain of command would allow the IACRF to work with complete impartiality and be able to do its job description without fear of stepping on superiors’ toes. The IACRF would be responsible for the awareness and enforcement of protocol and procedures with regards to work regulations – especially potential criminal acts. Many people attempt to defend the inaction of the Penn State employees by saying there was a ‘breakdown’ of communication throughout the chain of command. The IACRF position would be created to ensure that no such ‘breakdown’ ever occurred again among the university faculty. An optimist would hope the events that occurred at Penn State would serve as a sad notice as to what can happen when inaction occurs. Just in case that does not happen, the IACRF would run faculty workshops explaining prominent social issues such as the ‘By-Stander Effect’. Just as important as the actual work the IACRF would be doing, the position would simultaneously serve as a figurehead and ultimate overseer of the university. There is few things people respect more than when someone admits their mistakes, then does everything in their power to make sure it never happens again. Creating the IACRF would be a good step for Penn State to make sure the latter part of that statement comes true.
At Penn State, the actions of few have decimated the hard work and dedication of thousands. While the university will never be able to make this ‘right’, they can ‘do good’ by the victims by using their wealth of resources to aid the prevention of any future, similar actions from occurring. Often times, people say that one must learn from mistakes in the past or else they are doomed to repeat them in the future. Penn State should make it their mission to become an educator that teaches the rest of the nation what can happen if a lethal blend of mixed up priorities and inexcusable inaction come together. The proposed creation of three new positions is aimed to help Penn State rebuild itself at the campus, local, and national level. While it is truly sad that it takes such devastating circumstances to ignite positive action, Penn State has a chance to rebuild its reputation by simply doing the right thing from this day forward.
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