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Penn State needs to prioritize student safety

Pennsylvania State University has been hit with a much-deserved $2.4 million fine by federal investigators. This penalty resulted from an investigation that cites Penn State’s failure to report former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s cases of sexual abuse and harassment. This fine is beyond justified.

Investigators concluded that Penn State had failed to comply with the Clery Act. This act mandates that a university must quickly send out alerts when a threat on campus arises. According to the act, the university must also disclose all annual crime statistics. The Clery Act was named after Jeanne Clery, a student at Lehigh University who was raped and murdered in her dorm in 1986.

When the Sandusky investigation started in 2011, Penn State and former head football coach, Joe Paterno, denied knowing of any criminal acts committed by Sandusky. This was hard to believe. Although Penn State has a reputable academic program, it is the football program that turns Penn State into a household name.

With two national championships and four conference titles, it is hard to believe that the university did not know what was going on under its roof. It is especially difficult to fathom since winning championships brings huge amounts of money to the school. It seems convenient for the school to disregard criminal acts in favor of huge sums of money.

The fine of $2.4 million is a result of many violations. When it came to Sandusky, Penn State acted negligently. The school allowed a sexual predator to be around children and on school property even after he retired. Most shockingly, Penn State did not report any of this activity. The biggest reason for the fine was Penn State’s failure to submit crime statistics. The lack of attention to the issue left current and prospective students in the dark regarding the safety of Penn State’s campus.

When some victims came forward, the claims were brushed off. Children were violated and their innocence was taken away by the hands of a cherished coach. The university decided to give out settlements to the victims but it can never reimburse a lost childhood.

It is hard to say whether or not Penn State has done enough to repair the damage. In addition to the settlements, Penn State has also implemented initiatives to instill compliance and promote better ethics. It clearly hopes that these new initiatives will prevent another event like this from repeating itself. Time will tell if these steps will actually prove useful.

At universities where the athletic department is worshipped, inappropriate actions committed by athletes or coaches can be easily swept under the rug. Penn State believed that it could put this issue in the past, but the school was terribly wrong.

The university officials were expected to act in the best interest of the students, but they chose not to. Universities must place a greater emphasis on safety for the average student, as opposed to the protection of a few individuals who have committed terrible wrongs. It is their duty to make sure their studetns are protected from harm.

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