After weeks of speculation, the Joe Paterno statue was removed from outside Beaver Stadium. There have been a number of debated topics surrounding this story, but this issue has become a focal point of late. How do you respond in an appropriate way to this type of horrible tragedy? Even though it is clear that the university cannot make amends, there is often a desire to do something that looks like strong leadership. Here are three reasons why the JoPa statue was taken down.
A source of division
I think Penn State President Rodney Erickson was correct when he stated that the statue "has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing." Translation? We should not be spending our time debating about whether the statue should stay up or not. That is an issue, but it is not the major problem. Instead, we should be talking about the atrocities that happened and how they might be avoided in the future. Therefore, the statue was removed so that more important discussions can occur.
A symbolic gesture
Joe Paterno was not the only person at fault in this situation. However, he is the only one with a statue, and statues are typically intended for people of honor. While longtime fans of Penn State remember many of the good things that Paterno did during his career and lament the removal of that statue, the institution obviously felt this needed to be done. Call it a scapegoat strategy or a public relations decision, but Penn State had to make a move. Removing the statue doesn't fix the problem, but it is a symbolic move to acknowledge that Paterno failed to do enough.
Was this a move to partially appease the NCAA and minimize the sanctions against the university? Perhaps that was part of the motivation in this case. The history of college infractions includes an aspect of remorse and self-correction. In other words, the NCAA likes it when schools punish themselves or initiate self-imposed sanctions. It may not be enough to save Penn State from serious punishment, as the NCAA may not care that the statue came down.
This is a sad and tragic story for so many reasons. The statue is gone, but for many people the hurt will never go away.
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