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Monday, November 07, 2011

"Failure of leadership"

This story makes me want to vomit.  This ESPN writer says it much better than I could:

Even now, as the heartbreaking details emerge, pages of grand jury testimony are absorbed and parsed, and a seamy picture of alleged child abuse and the subsequent failures to act comes into clear, indefensible focus, the reflex of the Penn State hierarchy involved is one of tone deafness. 

That focus revolves not around the children who most needed the adults to be grown-ups but around protecting the power: the big, untouchable football program with its legendary coach with the big name and the big reputation, the do-gooder charity with the board of directors with the big names on it.

Surrounded by so much bigness, virtually everyone in a position of authority at Penn State has, thus far, seemed to come up very small. Jerry Sandusky might not be innocent, but, as of today, he is legally not guilty. He was charged with 40 counts of felony sex abuse against minors. Despite anger and public opinion, Sandusky deserves the due process of the court of law as well as the presumption of innocence until his case is complete. 

But Penn State president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley, vice president for business and finance Gary Schultz and coach Joe Paterno should be held to a higher standard. So should The Second Mile, a charity that was founded to help children. Whether or not Sandusky is convicted, each was faced with a critical choice with damning information and chose to protect the program. This is what power has become. More accurately, it is what power has always been, in existence to protect itself.

There is no defense for the number of people in positions of authority who had an opportunity to stop Sandusky and did not.

The university, responding to information provided by a graduate student in 2002 that he witnessed Sandusky performing anal sex in the shower on a boy about 10 years old, did nothing. The university did not call authorities and did not ever sever ties with Sandusky, allowing him to maintain an office on campus for years.

The entire edifice of the Penn State monument is crumbling, yet no one involved seems capable of producing the most obvious, and decent, response, to acknowledge that each of these men failed to uphold his responsibilities spectacularly. They failed their communities, and they failed the eight [so far] young boys the state is accusing Sandusky of sexually abusing

The legendary Paterno failed. He was the first of the Penn State athletic inner circle to be told of the shower incident nine years ago, and all he did was tell his university superiors. Then, according to his son, the great character builder and shaper of young people essentially never gave it a second thought, going back to designing plays for third-and-short and trying to devise ways to beat Wisconsin. Four days after Sandusky's indictment, instead of taking true responsibility and making an immediate and public plan to put the alleged victims first, the coach is scurrying from the responsibilities of leadership he ostensibly has built a life around.

Curley and Schultz, who face charges of perjury, failed. The grand jury report states on pages 6-7 that, a week and a half after telling Paterno what he had seen, the graduate assistant "reported to Curley and Schultz that he witnessed what he believed to be Sandusky having anal sex with a boy in the Lasch Building showers." According to the grand jury report, Curley later told the graduate assistant that he had met with Sandusky to advise Sandusky that he "was prohibited from bringing youth onto the Penn State campus from that point forward." But neither official took the allegations to the police or reported them to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. In other words, all Penn State did was to ensure that if Sandusky sexually abused a child in the future, at least it wouldn't take place on campus

Spanier, president of the university since 1995, failed, too. He might not face charges, but he has known about this incident for nine years and, as the indictment became public this weekend, chose to use his public comments not to condemn a systematic failure but to defend Schultz and Curley without significantly mentioning the pain and plight of the alleged victims [boys as young as 8 years old].

Finally, The Second Mile failed. The charity, founded by Sandusky in 1977 and which state prosecutors say he used to abuse eight boys over a 15-year period, was told directly of the 2002 incident by Curley and Schultz. Yet the organization -- which counts Paterno, Franco Harris, Mark Wahlberg and other famous lights as honorary members of its board of directors -- did nothing to keep Sandusky away from children or away from the foundation for another six years. This week, now that the entire shameful facade has crumbled, it released a statement claiming ignorance: "At no time was The Second Mile made aware of the very serious allegations contained in the Grand Jury report." 

It is incongruous [that's putting it very politely!!] that any adult with basic common sense -- especially those who supposedly have worked with children and young adults for decades -- could conclude that there was no wrongdoing after a report that a grown man was inappropriately in a shower with a child. Being in a shower inappropriately with a child or adolescent is the finding of wrongdoing. Paterno, Schultz and Curley all appear to be using the same defense: that the graduate student who came forward did not detail specifically what he saw. Which begs the question: After being told that an adult, who to that point had worked with children for 25 years, was caught showering in your locker room with a child for any reason, just how much more specificity did Paterno, Schultz and Curley actually need? 



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