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November 11, 2011

Upheaval at Penn State

Joe Charlebois

Disgusting, abhorrent, reprehensible are a few words that describe the actions of the administration at the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s banner university – Penn State.


To say that the actions of the administration that was informed of the conduct of former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky in 1998 and still allowed access to the University’s Lasch Football Building as well as to maintain emeritus status after his retirement, were in the bounds of reason is preposterous.


The chain of command in reporting the subsequent accounts seems never to have been broken. For the sake of the young boys who were sexually assaulted it should have been. Based on the grand jury testimony, the incidents that were witnessed went no further than the President Graham Spanier, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz.


Technically head football Coach Joe Paterno, an unnamed graduate assistant thought to be Scott McQueary, janitor James Calhoun and his immediate supervisor Jay Witherite did what was required legally but they failed morally.


They must have realized that the information that was passed along to their superiors had never seen the light of day based on the seriousness of the assaults. They must have realized that reports of Mr. Sandusky’s behavior had been shelved. There was nothing keeping these men – and possibly others who may have known about these assaults – from reporting these assaults to the proper legal authorities.


Reporting these assaults to the proper authorities did not happen. It should have.


Although there are purported to be 40 counts pending against Mr. Sandusky, three stand out. Based on the grand jury testimony, in 1998 “Victim 6” first reported an assault to his mother and authorities which led to Mr. Sandusky’s retirement in 1999. Still having contact with children through The Second Mile – a charitable organization founded by Mr. Sandusky for “at risk” children – and access to an office on the Penn State campus, Mr. Sandusky was able to assault “Victim 8” in the showers at the Lasch Football Building. This assault took place in the fall of 2000 and – although witnessed by Mr. Calhoun and reported to his supervisor – no official report was ever filed. The third assault that came to the administration’s attention was in March of 2002 when a graduate assistant witnessed a sexual assault in the showers of the Lasch Football Building.


What did the administration do after the third assault? They took away his keys.


If the intent of the administration was to keep the sterling reputation of Penn State University intact, it has failed. If they would have come forward with this information a dozen years ago and focused on the reprehensible actions of Jerry Sandusky, they would have received a “black eye.” As it stands now, a proud university sits forever in shame and embarrassment for not acting in the best interests of the young boys that Mr. Sandusky assaulted.


Those who chose to ignore, hide or cover up this tragedy are complicit in the infliction of permanent scars upon the psyche of an unknown number of young boys and men.


Unsettling, too, is the action of a number of Penn State students who care less about the sexual assault on someone’s little brother, son, nephew than they do about giving Joe Pa one final home game. Thousands protested in the streets in opposition to the firing, even overturning and vandalizing a TV station van and attacking a reporter.


Although there was a small contingent of students who prayed for the children who are now young men, the rioting students have it wrong, Joe Paterno had to go and not on his own terms, for there was much he could have done but didn’t.


What would it say if the Board of Trustees allowed Coach Paterno to stay on for the final three games of the season? What would it say to the assault victims and their families who will forever be coping with this lives? A triumphant Joe Pa being carried off of the Beaver Stadium field this Saturday would have said that football matters more!


It doesn’t and never should.



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