Lessons From Penn State

If you want to know the lesson from the Penn State scandal, it’s not that we should shut down college athletics (though I wouldn’t be crying if we did). It’s not that people worship college football too much (though perhaps they do). It’s not that powerful men are all evil and always take advantage of their positions. The lesson is that colleges should not be in the law enforcement business. I’ve said it on this blog before and I’ll say it again. I would not trust a single college administrator to conduct an investigation into a criminal matter. They don’t have the interests of the victim in mind. They don’t have any interest in protecting the rights of the accused. Their interest is in protecting the school’s reputation (and their own jobs). That is it.

The reason we have police officers and public defenders and prosecutors and judges is that we think that it is hard to catch criminals and hard to ensure that justice is properly served. College administrators and faculty should be trusted to investigate plagiarism and, maybe, petty larceny. But that’s about it, folks. Rape? Assault? Child abuse? What would possess anyone to think that these matters can be taken care of with an internal investigation?

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