Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Penn State Affair

The recent scandal at Penn State regarding its former football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is not in the league with the priest-pedophile peccadilloes and cover-ups that have virtually defined the Catholic Church for a decade or so, but it’s just as bad in terms of the harm done to individuals. The effort made by the administration of Penn State, i.e., the officials who should have taken immediate and drastic action, reflects that of the Church in keeping everything quiet and just moving the perpetrators from one assignment to another. This represented criminal activity by both the Church- and Penn State-officials.

The Grand Jury report concerning this matter outlines the harm done by Sandusky to a number of victims, all minors and victims of pedophilia/child molestation at his hands and graphically described in the report. There’s no way to know how many other children and teenagers he violated. Athletic director Tim Curley and university vice president Gary Schultz, who was in charge of university police, were indicted on charges of perjury in their grand jury testimony and for failure to report the incident to legal authorities. Both men stepped down after being indicted but the school’s trustees also fired Penn State president Graham Spanier and football coach Joe Paterno.

Strangely and while there have been firings, the eyewitness to the incident leading to the Grand Jury report, Mike McQueary, also an assistant coach, has only been placed on administrative leave. By his own account, he made no effort to stop the obscene machinations used by Sandusky on the boy, aged 10 or 11, in a shower facility. Instead, he left the scene and didn’t report the incident until the next day when he approached not the men responsible for the conduct of the university or the university police or the city police but the football coach, Joe Paterno, who reported the incident to Curley the next day. McQueary later changed his story but it has not been confirmed or corroborated by the officials he cited.

Sandusky retired in 1999 and had no connection to the football program or university, though he was still allowed to use Penn State facilities, such as the weight room and showers. This is not unusual on probably most campuses. One can only wonder at the possible number of civil suits against Sandusky, Penn State officials and the university as other men come forward in the coming days to level charges regarding their experiences with Sandusky when they were much younger.

The attempt at cover-up is not unusual with regard to the university, or most institutions, for that matter. One of Penn State’s professors, Dr. Michael Mann, was caught up in the “climate-gate” scandal a few years ago when it was discovered through the “outing” of e-mails that he and climate researchers in England had perpetrated a fraud with respect to any significant manmade global warming. They were high-profile operatives in the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and their work precipitated the dire predictions about people virtually killing existence through pouring carbon dioxide into the air.

Actually, the earth as a whole has been cooling for a number of years, simply going through a climate cycle. A faculty committee at Penn State (no outsiders) reviewed Mann’s work last year to assure that it met proper academic standards. He was cleared of any wrongdoing, despite the e-mails and the findings of Mann’s peers. The integrity of the university was thus protected, never mind that leaders throughout the world still take the dire predictions seriously. Indeed, the U.S. House even passed a cap/trade bill designed to make energy costs skyrocket. The Senate hasn’t touched it.

The firestorm that’s ranged around Paterno is the puzzler. He fulfilled his chain-of-command responsibilities when he informed Curley, part of the school’s administration, of the matter but apparently did no follow-up with respect to actions taken…or not taken. Detractors seem to be saying that he was derelict in his duties, even though he was not a witness to anything. He has said himself that he wished he had done more. Did he mean follow-up or do the detractors believe he knew of Sandusky’s perfidies already and hadn’t stopped the man?

At age 84 and in his forty-sixth year as head coach, Paterno had already been under extreme local pressure to step aside from coaching even though his teams were doing well. He had given no indication that he would, so could the attack on him have been one of opportunism satisfied? That’s possible but it doesn’t account for the general public’s reaction. Linking him with the pedophilia, as if he had somehow given his imprimatur to Sandusky’s evil, seems far too big a stretch. In any case, stripping him as well as his teams of all recognition concerning the achievements they made is what some people want. The whole affair is messy but this seems a bit much.

Sandusky had already given evidence of unacceptable behavior with boys. People who knew of this and did nothing are culpable, including Paterno, although it’s hard to do much without either an accuser or an eyewitness. The eyewitness failed and the university failed. The jury is out on Paterno.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark

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