Susan Naomi Bernstein, PhD

Stephen Cormany, PhD

November 9, 2011

To the Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees:

As alumni of conscience who earned our doctorates in English from the Pennsylvania State University in 1993, we stand in support of firing Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier from their positions before the end of the Fall 2011 semester. The crime of child abuse perpetuates immense consequences for the victim, the victim’s family, and for future generations of the victim’s family. When this crime remains hidden by people who were “just doing their job” or “doing only what the law requires,” the whole of society suffers as well.

Silence not only enables offenders to abuse with impunity, but also demonstrates an inhuman lack of empathy for the victims. All of these factors render conditions for another perfect storm: a catastrophic inattention to the moral and ethical development of current and future generations of Penn State students, not a few of whom identify as victims of abuse, and family and friends of victims.

Some alumni and students may have particularly strong feelings against firing Paterno. We are not unmindful of the potential short-term impact that Paterno’s firing may have on alumni donations and student enrollments. Instead we urge you to consider the long-term benefits, benefits that will outlast media sound bites and alumni threats. By firing Paterno and Spanier both, you would state in no uncertain terms that Penn State does not tolerate crimes against humanity, or the silence that permits such crimes to go unpunished.

Over the long term, such a stance would provide the encouragement for the growth of enrollment and donations, and also would lend confidence to faculty and graduate students that regard human rights as integral to their research agendas and inseparable from the values of teaching and learning that they hope to pass on to students.

In this new century and new decade, Penn State has a significant opportunity to restore the values of ethical and moral reason that guided us in our own studies at University Park so long ago. For the sake of renewing the Penn State mission and creating innovations for future generations to grow and learn, we appeal to you to in to act in good faith and to fire Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier as a consequence of their inactions and their silence.

Thank you for your kind attention to our concerns.

Sincerely,

Susan Naomi Bernstein, PhD

English 1993

Stephen Cormany, PhD

English 1993

(I met Susan at Northern Illinois University in 2010.  She is one of the sweetest individual I have come across in higher education.)

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