Keeping Score

Life Inside the College Bubble at Penn State

In this week's issue of TIME, we explore the insular nature of college campuses — and how "Happy Valley" stays happy amid scandal.

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A statue of head coach Joe Paterno of the Penn State Nittany Lions is seen at Beaver Stadium.

The child sex abuse scandal at Penn State reveals a new twist every day. On Wednesday, for example, a new alleged victim of Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse filed the first lawsuit against Sandusky, Penn State, and the Second Mile, a charity for at-risk youth founded by Sandusky. This victim was not cited in the grand jury indictment against Sandusky.

The Dec. 12 issue of TIME, on newsstands Friday and available online and on the iPad for subscribers, includes a feature story on the Penn State case. We took a step back from the now-familiar details of the disturbing saga, and explored the insular nature of college campuses, and Penn State in particular. Campus bubbles build loyalty, community, and a strong sense of family — positive attributes, but potentially dangerous ones if they cloud judgment. We tapped the expertise of organizational psychologists, who explain the mind tricks people play to insure that a place like Happy Valley (the nickname prescribed to State College, Pa.) remains an idyllic community. Especially when the reputation and integrity of the football team, the cultural heartbeat of State College, is in question.

The end of the piece offers a proposal: what if Penn State took a break from football? Such a decision could help that university rebalance its priorities, and force schools around the country to think about rebalancing academics and athletics. Agree? Disagree? Read the story and let us know.