Friday, August 31, 2012

Ban Youthful Hijinx

From the AP, via

Penn State Riot Ends Aspiring Army Officer's Dream

Perhaps none have learned a harder lesson than Justin Strine, a young man from central Pennsylvania whose planned career as an Army officer is over before it began -- the casualty of his own split-second decision to put his hands on a news van, and a judicial system that considered him as guilty as classmates who did far worse that dark night in State College.

An estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people poured into downtown State College on Nov. 9 after the Penn State board of trustees abruptly and unexpectedly fired Paterno -- the beloved football coach who led Penn State for nearly 46 seasons -- and removed President Graham Spanier over the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal.

What began as a peaceful protest of Paterno's unceremonious dismissal quickly turned ugly as a "riotous mob," as State College police would later call it, threw bottles and rocks, damaged cars, and tore down light posts and street signs.

I was a student auxillary with our university campus' police department in the early '90s, and was on duty the night a significant fraction of the student body rioted, building a bonfire in the middle of an intersection, destroying a traffic light, a police car, and the football field goalposts. Word was that our football team had won a game. An away game.

No one was arrested.

Now, on the one hand, I'm inclined to hope that young Justin's ROTC career will ultimately be rehabilitated, assuming that the AP article above is telling the full story. But I am also grateful that the legal system is sending a significant reminder that there is nothing about being a college student that puts him above the laws the rest of us are expected to live by. For too long, students at all levels have been given a pass for illegal, not to mention boorish and offensive, behavior. It seems the proliferation of cell phone camcorders combined with YouTube and Facebook have made it a lot easier for the police to build cases against individual rioters, and I am frankly glad for it.

Nothing brings out the worst in undergraduates and their coatholders like intercollegiate athletics. Now, based on my recollection of the timeline, the full details of Paterno's coverup of Sandusky's behavior had not yet made the press at the time of his resignation. So I am prepared to allow that the student body's support of Paterno might not be as indicatve of quite the level of moral obtuseness as it would appear in retrospect. But having said that, some level of moral obtuseness is pretty baked in. College football fanaticism has corrupted universities in all sorts of ways, from lowered admissions and retention standards to a see-no-evil attitude towards crimes commiitted by athletes. The Penn State scandal is symptomatic of that larger cause, and I'd just as soon see the whole thing shut down.


Anonymous said...

I find it a little irritating that articles like this assume every ROTC cadet has a promising career in the military. They are all strategic geniuses, natural leaders and national heros. The truth is most will go into the reserves and serve only a minimum amount of time to satisfy their obligations by doing stuff tht doesn't matter to anyone. The Army needs lots of drones.

Since this guy already shows problems with self discipline, it is likely he will continue unacceptable behavior in the service and will not rise above the rank of captain (automatic promotion that far is guaranteed).

Dr. Φ said...

I will reserve judgment as to whether or not his character is such that he should rise higher than captain; it would depend on what else is known about him. But given his family history, I would expect he would have been likely to rise past captain.

Peter said...

If the military is that unforgiving he's better off not joining.

Anonymous said...

Yes. The military is SOOO unforgiving by not hiring people with criminal records to be its leaders.

The bar is set low enough as it is.