We have all been horrified by the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State -- at the abuse of power by Joe Paterno and the utter disregard for children on the part of the university administration. This was a failure of individuals, not an institution.
I am angered by the sanctimonious sanctions issued by the NCAA. I have no problem with the $60 million fine, or with vacating victories. What I don't understand is the NCAA's desire to decimate the football program, for what many believe could be a decade or more, by eliminating scholarships and keeping the team out of postseason play for four years.
It is one thing to punish those involved in the scandal, but it is another thing to punish the students and the athletes in every sport at Penn State who will be affected by the loss in football revenue, and the merchants in State College who rely on game-day revenue.
This is a scandal about big-time college sports and about the role of the NCAA in creating an atmosphere where sports is so powerful. The irony is that Paterno understood the importance of academics. He donated millions to the library that will continue to bear his name.
MARK BAYLEY, Eden Prairie
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A Minnesota name comes to mind as I think about Penn State.
Mark Yudof was president of the University of Minnesota when it came to light in 1999 that a university employee had done class assignments for some Gopher basketball players. There was a long, expensive investigation; the university proclaimed itself deeply ashamed; penalties were imposed; high-profile heads rolled.
To be clear, I'm not equating sexual assault with cheating on class assignments. But in both the Sandusky and Gopher basketball incidents, officers at the very highest levels of major universities failed to take decisive action against abuses so common that they've become defining attributes of big-time collegiate athletics.
Yudof is apparently a fine administrator. U regents routinely gave him big raises, and, since leaving Minnesota, he's headed major universities in Texas and California. He was not responsible for the cheating among Gopher basketball players.
But he could've said, "Stop. Let's take a hard look at what collegiate athletics have become, and let's make fundamental, systemic changes that will restore them to their proper place in the life of a university."
He didn't do that. And that failure by omission -- a failure shared with countless top administrators nationwide -- made it more likely that we'd wind up with the disgusting situation at Penn State.
The NCAA's penalties against Penn State are seen as harsh primarily because they will hurt the football program -- and the football program was the very root of the problem, because it gave Paterno and his circle such power that even the university president didn't dare touch him.
The penalties do nothing about the underlying problems -- big money and selling academic integrity for athletic success -- that have perverted the inherent beauty of sports in their truest, most essential form.
STEVEN SCHILD, WINONA, MINN.
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Jewish Community Action is a nonprofit that strives to and succeeds in building bridges over racial, religious and ethnic lines to address pressing social-justice issues, so we do not endorse or participate in electoral politics. We do speak out, however, in the face of injustice and bias. Silence in such circumstances is just not acceptable.
This past week, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann publicly linked her fellow Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison to the Muslim Brotherhood and, by implication, to terrorism. Jewish Community Action has spent more than 15 years pursuing justice and advocating for Minnesota to become a more inclusive society. As Jews, we understand what it is like to be treated as the other, excluded from the community or targeted by prejudice and suspicion.
Our country has lived through more than enough episodes of guilt by association. Too many important real domestic issues and problems are at stake for the media and policymakers to be distracted by pointless fear-mongering. It is time for Bachmann to apologize to Ellison and all Muslims unless she has clear evidence of serious safety concerns.
ANDREA RUBENSTEIN and VIC ROSENTHAL, St. Paul
The writers are board chair and executive director, respectively, of Jewish Community Action.
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I was disappointed to read that the Metropolitan Council has chosen not to follow its staff's original recommendation on the selection of a team to design the Southwest Corridor ("Council rethinks rail contract," July 21).
Processes are put in place to make these kinds of qualifications-based selections as fair as possible. The public puts its trust, as should the agencies, in these professionals to make the best decisions for the public good, free from outside influence.
In order to maintain the public's trust in the integrity of a decision, we must be reassured that external forces bear no weight on the decisionmaking process. It's hard to believe that about these contracts, given the decision of the council to disregard the recommendations of its own professional staff.
Engineers are a tremendously important part of these projects. They are innovators who regularly find new, more efficient and effective ways of designing a project, often saving the public significant amounts of money.
Finally, decisions should be based on apples-to-apples comparisons. The Sabo Bridge and the Southwest Corridor are very different projects.
DAVID OXLEY, Minnetonka
The writer is executive director of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Minnesota.
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