Letter to the editor | Rank the bad stuff, too

November 27, 2013 

Another senseless tragedy, fueled allegedly by drugs, but it could well have been alcohol, stupidity, invincibility or maybe despair. The true, root cause(s) may be very difficult to pin down.

How do we attack the causes if we cannot wrap our arms around them?

Perhaps the first step is disclosing the breadth of this and comparable misfortunes. So many attributes of institutions of higher education are measured and ranked: new students’ SAT scores, placement of graduates, faculty-to-student ratios, “party school” and, of course, sports — statistics and rankings of every kind.

Why not quantify, rank and publish “danger zone” statistics (of Penn State and other institutions)? Feature the numbers of: incidents and injuries prompted by an “accelerant” such as alcohol, drugs, peer pressure (these would probably include most unusual falls — from balconies, windows, etc. — and many late-night fights and attacks); instances of harassment, bullying, hate mongering or bias; and, of course, all instances of sexual misconduct — reports, charges and convictions.

Show the data for all to see — regularly — like weather statistics and football and baseball standings.

The first step in understanding and confronting causes of such heartbreaks is awareness (or the prevalent, local buzz word “transparency”).

What is the extent of incidents such as the two recent falls from balconies? How many are instigated by some form of “accelerant”?

Inquiring, caring minds want to know. Knowing is a spark for action — focused efforts to eliminate or at least minimize such senselessness.

Joe Kowalski, State College

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