Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Penn State scandal

Have you been following the Penn State scandal? In short, Football Defense Gerald (Jerry) Sandusky was tried and convicted on 45 of 48 counts related to molesting young boys from 1998 onwards. He recruited these boys at The Second Mile charity he set up in 1977 for young, underprivileged children. Sadly, it seems that child molesters are practically a dime a dozen, but what makes this case compelling is that several Penn State officials knew that he was molesting boys on Penn State property and didn't report it to the authorities or the Second Mile charity.

The Penn state-commissioned Freeh report showed that Joe Paterno, beloved head coach for the football team; athletic director Tim CurleyGary Schultz,university vice president responsible for overseeing the university police, among other duties; and university president Graham Spanier knew about two molestation incidents and did nothing to punish Sandusky or prevent future crimes from occurring. Worse, during the grand jury investigation of Sandusky, Schultz and Curley lied about what they knew and are now under investigation for perjury.

I remember when Paterno was fired in November 2011 after Sandusky was formally charged and the students rioted. How could their football leader, the one who made the university what it was, have anything to do with Sandusky's crimes? Now we know: he had a lot to do with them. By all accounts, he was the most powerful person at that university because he ran football and football brought in the money. Therefore, he could call the shots when it came to his players and his team.

He clashed with Vicky Triponey, former head of student affairs, over how football players were disciplined. He didn't want the public to know about football player's crimes (does that sound familiar?) and he wanted football players to receive gentler punishment than everyone else. And who supported him? Why, Curley and Spanier, of course. Winning at football was more important than ethics and honesty. Football was more important than anything else, and it forced Triponey out of the school after she was threatened and shunned.

Paterno died in January, 2012, of complications related to lung cancer. Before he died, he wrote a letter that said that the Sandusky situation was not football-related. In another university, that might be true, but not at Penn State where football ran the school. If football wasn't so important to the university, Sandusky's crimes would never have been covered up and that makes this situation very much related to football.

Clearly there's a problem with Penn State's culture and it's going to take a long time to fix that culture. The "Penn State way" is wrong. Some are speculating that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), a member organization that creates rules and policies for a number of university sports, and who could punish Penn State for organizational failures - the ones that covered up Sandusky's crimes and then lied about it. Those punishments could include the "death penalty" or preventing the team from playing in the league for a full season or more. It's also possible that the NCAA could ban post-season play or levy any one of a number of other punishments.

I'm outraged by the entire situation. How could football - a sport - be more important than ethics? How could keeping players on the field be more important that those players completing their punishments? How could fans maintain that Paterno had done nothing wrong when it's clear that did? I know, I know, football brings in money and everyone loves money. At Penn State, they also loved Paterno who had been there for 61 years. Bringing in a ton of money in no way justifies the kind of insular, "football is most important" views that Paterno and others shared.

The priorities at Penn State are a mess and will stay that way unless the university takes gigantic steps to fix them. The culture is just too deeply entrenched in the minds of people connected to Penn State for real change to occur easily. I don't think that the university should wait for the NCAA to dole out punishments; I think that Penn State should prevent the football team from playing for a year. Anything less than that will say that football is still the most important thing at Penn State, that it's more important than ethics or morals.

At the same time, Penn State needs to bring in new people from outside the community who have experience  guiding change in a large organization. Penn State needs to finally step up and do right by its students and its communities.

1 comment:

Aunt Margaret said...

I so agree with your conclusions!!