Restorative Justice and PSU

Let’s start with a definition…

Restorative justice (also sometimes called reparative justice) is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders, as well as the involved community, instead of satisfying abstract legal principles or punishing the offender. Victims take an active role in the process, while offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, “to repair the harm they’ve done—by apologizing, returning stolen money, or community service”. Restorative justice involves both victim and offender and focuses on their personal needs. In addition, it provides help for the offender in order to avoid future offences. It is based on a theory of justice that considers crime and wrongdoing to be an offence against an individual or community, rather than the state. Restorative justice that fosters dialogue between victim and offender shows the highest rates of victim satisfaction and offender accountability. (from Wikipedia entry on Restorative justice)

The victim in this case: several, if not dozens, of young men that Jerry Sandusky abused and assaulted.

The offender in this case: the administration and powers that be at Penn State University.

Ok, so I know this is going to be controversial among many of my friends, coworkers, and even family members, but it needs to be said. Not only do I believe that the punishment levied on PSU was just, but I found the entirety of the focus of Dr. Emmert and Dr. Ray during their presentation was dead on. The measures were indeed somewhat punitive in nature, but the spirit of the entire sanction and the accompanying words from the NCAA was something entirely different. Hope, restoration, and a focus on change…

I am not going to debate whether or not the NCAA has jurisdiction to do this (because it’s obvious that they did, even PSU officials seemed to understand that). I am not going to hash out the sanctions one-by-one… we all know what happened. What I am going to do is try to help remove the navy tinted glasses that many of those I know and care about are wearing while looking this matter.

The biggest gripe I hear is… “Why punish the students?” My answer is simple… the NCAA didn’t really do that. They were specific to minimize that as much as possible. There were safeguards in place for scholarship athletes on the football team (ability to transfer without having to site out one year, ability to leave the team and remain on full scholarship if they choose, etc). The NCAA exclaimed on multiple points in their address and their answering of questions that PSU could not limit the funds that were typically used to fund other sports and student functions (ie. the monetary fine must be paid with funds that will not cripple other portions of the institution). And… that brings me to the vacated wins…

Vacating the wins from 1998-2011 does not hurt the alumni who played in those games. The players are not going to lose the memories, the trophies, or the ability to play in the NFL, CFL, or AFL. What’s done is done for them. This decision is exactly the same as taking away Pete Rose’s hitting title/HOF bid… only that JoePa’s discretions were much more egregious.

I know I am bound to get some hate from many reading this… and that is fine, but those who listened to Dr. Emmert and Dr. Ray need to relisten and hear what they had to say. These decisions, agreed to by PSU administrators, are a road to changing the culture of Penn State University, in hopes that others follow suit. PSU has always been a leader among the nation’s universities, so now it’s their turn to step up and continue that legacy. Change the culture, place human dignity ahead of sports, and encourage others to do the same. Pay the $60 million dollar fine, all the while smiling… and when it’s all paid, keep donating to the fund. Place abuse awareness ribbons on the uniforms, give them out at games, run promotions to donate directly to the families of the victims…

Penn State has the opportunity to show the world what “We Are Penn State” really means. I trust that the students, alumni, and new administration will show the world that PSU is a resilient beacon of what education is supposed to be and that this breakdown was a momentary lapse in leadership and judgement.

EDIT: After writing, I found this… and here’s a great example of how Penn State can resonate justice and be that beacon…

~ by thepaintedman on July 25, 2012.

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