PHILANTHROPY AS A WAY TO BEGIN HEALING AT PENN STATE


By James D’Ambrosio

Like millions of people across the U.S., I was deeply saddened about the findings of the investigation into the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State, confirming a cover-up at several levels. While there’s a wide range of opinions — and strong feelings — about what should be done as a result of these revelations, I believe many would agree the worst part of the scandal was the abuse of innocent children — allowed to continue for years. One can only imagine their pain and anguish. As a humanitarian, it’s this aspect of the tragedy I’ll focus on: how to begin the healing process.

A PROGRESSIVE IDEA TO BEGIN THE HEALING

Last Sunday, a letter to the sports editor in The New York Times suggested donating the next four years of football-related profits at Penn State to a fund benefiting the victims of child sexual abuse (read letter here). This  seemed like an excellent way to begin healing the entire school community —victims and their loved ones, students, alumni, faculty and staff, the football program, the local community, and all those with ties to the college. Perhaps prominent Penn State alumni — business leaders or pro football players — could influence the school to move in this direction.

TRAGEDIES SHOULDN’T BE FORGOTTEN

An important reason for championing this idea is human nature: too often, tragedies like this dominate public discourse for a short time only to be forgotten when the headlines disappear, opening the door to similar wrongdoing elsewhere. In short, the lesson isn’t learned. But a strong, sustained, philanthropic commitment over a period of time could have a more lasting impact. In addition to serving as a perpetual sobering reminder, large charitable contributions would significantly expand efforts to help other victims of child sexual abuse. This would restore integrity to Penn State and benefit humanity as a whole. 

To be sure, there’s no perfect remedy. Victims and their loved ones have suffered immensely. That can’t be undone. But a concerted effort helping others would be a good start. Since millions in football profits was arguably a contributing factor, why not invest those monies as described above? Such an initiative would show the country — and the world — that Penn State is committed to positive action on a scandal of epic proportions that could have been avoided. 

QUESTION TO READERS:

From a philanthropic perspective, what else do you think the college could do to address this crisis?     

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