I find it very hard to express how upsetting this whole Penn State University sexual abuse scandal is. My father was an employee and student at Penn State for years, and as a result, I’ve always been a fan of their school and program. I’ve visited Happy Valley, I wanted to go there for graduate school, and I always hoped on Saturday that their football team would win their game, at least unless they were playing Florida State. So when the events of this past week brought a dark chapter in their school’s and football program’s history to light, I was shocked, stunned, and saddened, just like any other school supporter and rational human being.

Last night, as a result of Joe Paterno’s firing (which was handled in a stupid and classless way by the board of directors), a swarm of stupid and classless news reporters surrounded Joe and his wife at their home. Compounding matters, a number of Penn State’s students did something equally stupid and classless, and a peaceful protest in support of Paterno turned into a minor riot. I understand that students and fans of Penn State tie themselves to Joe Paterno and the football team – it’s easy to do, to let a team or institution worm its way into your being, and then to want to support them with every fiber of your body. But to me, even a peaceful protest of Paterno’s firing was a bad idea. The institution has failed in such a way that anyone affiliated with Jerry Sandusky’s (alleged) actions and the resulting cover-up cannot continue to work at Penn State.

The way I see it, Joe Paterno failed nine years ago. He had a moral failure, when after reporting a second-hand account of what had happened, he did not follow up, he did not shout louder, he did not do more. I see no reasonable excuse for this failure, given the cost of what was at stake. At the same time, to demonize him seems silly, because frankly, every single human being has had some sort of moral failure of this sort at any time. The mistake here is taking this opportunity to show love and support for Paterno, especially in a violent and disrespectful manner. Paterno has shown himself to be a flawed human being, much the same as the rest of us, and should suffer the consequences of his actions, whether that is an ignominous exit from the school he loved so much or (worse), the pressing guilt that he failed a young boy in a time when he needed him the most. If you want to support Joe, the legendary coach, the shaper of so many young men, the force for good, I understand…but perhaps right now isn’t the right time to do it. Joe and his family should be reminded of all the good they’ve done, all the people they’ve helped – but not at a time like this when we are discussing what he’s done so wrong. There will be time to celebrate Paterno’s good later.

I’m conflicted about Paterno. I feel like he didn’t make the same mistake that others did, and I can’t help but continue to want to like him, despite what I see as a serious moral failure. I also don’t find his firing to be patently unfair – despite his track record, despite the good he’s accomplished, his deeds as a coach and man are not what is important at this time, what’s important is preventing a situation like the Sandusky scandal from happening again. The focus needs to be on the victims and the legal process, not on the coach who should have done more. So the fact that the students find it necessary to support Joe in such a vocal and, eventually, violent way, makes them part of the problem, takes focus away from the most important issues, and ultimately they should be held as accountable as everyone else.

Since there’s no way to undo the mess that’s come before, the best-case scenario from this point on is to do everything possible to make sure that this situation never, ever, happens again. With the media attention lavished upon this situation, there can be good to come of it, and it must happen immediately. Penn State should use some part of their staggering endowment to create a long-lasting support system or non-profit organization to support all victims of sexual abuse. Today. Not when this dies down, but today, while the ESPN 24-hour Penn State football news machine is rolling at its strongest. Though PSU as an institution failed all the boys who were (allegedly) damaged as part of the actions of Jerry Sandusky, there is literally no excuse for them to fail anyone else from this point on. This is not just a failure of one (alleged) sexual predator, it is also the failure of an entire system, and that system should hold itself responsible for its failure. These are victims who have gone years and years without anyone speaking in support of them, and now they are being marginalized in the news media, as the story remains more about football, then about healing. This is another moral failure, and it is unfair.

First and foremost, PSU is an institution of learning. We can all benefit from learning something from this horrible, horrible event. Whether it is that the people we hold up as idols and institutions are as fallible as anyone else, or that the failure to say or do something carries dire consequences, or any of a hundred lessons that anyone can take away from this tragedy.