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Penn State is offering a class that gives students the chance to examine the ethical issues surrounding the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
In October, Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach, was sentenced to 60 years in prison for sexual abuse of young boys over 15 years.
Professor Jonathan Marks, director of the Bioethics Program, teaches the freshman level class. Using short stories and movies, Marks engages the students in a discussion about the ethical issues in the case using a variety of formal ethical theories.
“I was strongly encouraged by the Dean to make the Sandusky crisis the focus of this course and it was an invitation I willingly embraced because I think it’s my responsibility to do this,” Marks told Here and Now’s Robin Young.
Marks said the students had to struggle with how to deal with issues close to home, including how they felt about the late head coach, Joe Paterno, who was critized for failing to stop Sandusky’s abuse.
Some students felt that the university’s statue of Paterno (which no longer stands on the university grounds) should be melted down and made into a memorial for Sandusky’s victims. Others are conflicted. One student said if it weren’t for Joe Paterno, he would never have attended Penn State, because he received a Paterno scholarship.
Marks said the class forced students to think beyond the individuals in this case.
“What we need to do is not just think about individuals,” Marks said. “But how we can structure our institutions and society at large to promote the kind of ethical behavior we want to see in ourselves and in others.”