Monday, November 28, 2011

Penn State

Only one reason occurs to me as valid for wading into the mess that a single sexual predator has wrought in a college town obsessed with its football team: a fresh perspective. Hear me out; I think I have one.
Thus far we can only write about those on whose behavior in the Sandusky affair we have some at least alleged facts. For better or worse, that pretty much eliminates the victims, about whom we know very little at this point. That leaves Sandusky himself, Paterno, the Athletic Director, the Vice-President for Business Affairs, and the President. We will return to this group shortly, but one remains, a graduate assistant at the time of his remarks to Paterno about what he saw in the shower. McQueary has become an assistant coach, and given paid administrative leave.
Most observers see the issue for all these men as one of not going to at least campus police if not the legal authorities with what they knew of Sandusky’s pederasty, however they obtained that knowledge. I spent twenty years in academia, and really want to know what this argument has to do with the way college administrators conduct business. Has nobody noticed that a V.P. for business got involved as the Athletic Director’s superior?
Colleges and universities like to police themselves, to control embarrassing information that might cost them contributions. Football generates enormous sums and inspires intense loyalty at Penn State. Under no circumstances would any administrator at any academic institution want to go to the police, though a minority would anyway, as the right thing to do. Did the others learn nothing from the Catholic church’s pederasty scandal? Obviously not, at least at Penn State.
This case has complexities nobody has yet fully comprehended, but one individual clearly deserves to have his name cleared. Who on earth can reasonably expect a graduate assistant to go over the head of his boss, the beloved Joe Paterno, and approach the police? To think so flies in the face of collegiate hierarchies. He did his duty by telling Paterno, who did his by telling the A.D., at which point the buck gets harder to pass, but surely he or the V.P. should have gone to the police.
The fact that they did not condemns both them and the notion of separation of academia and state that the academy wants desperately to preserve. I still do not know if Paterno deserved getting the sack. The three above him in the pecking order surely did.

Chapel Hill, NC
November 12, 2011

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