Penn State’s Selfishness Overshadows Real Tragedy
Forgotten, overshadowed, hidden, looked past, ignored. Scared.
As the immediate frenzy of media presence starts to slowly subside in the child sexual assault case of heralded Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, there is one question that is drawing substantial attention in State College, Pennsylvania, and the national stage in general.
What about the forgotten children, the victims being overshadowed by the gruesome acts in which they were allegedly subjected to?
But chillingly, maybe it’s fitting that these victims– children defrauded of the sacred childhood dream of trust, innocence, and protection– are overlooked in the public spotlight. Disregarded years after they were violated in the privacy of a locker room, shower, or basement, hidden in the dimly lit home and office of a coach that is the public face of a football program often thought of as divine by its loyal followers, and a president and members of his administration who live by and promotes the code “Success with Honor”– a man who has for so long been at a school that many have never been worried about whilst controversy, allegations, and accusations have plagued universities across the country.
The protection of children who are unable to protect themselves was ignored in favor of the selfish act of protecting an image, a program, that has for years stood for integrity and morals at the highest level.
According to a 23 page document released by the Thirty-Third statewide Investigating Grand Jury as a “Finding of Fact,” a graduate assistant, now identified as Penn State wide receivers coach Mike McQueary, discovered Sandusky and a boy labeled Victim 2 (believed to be ten years old), in the locker room shower. As the report reads, the boy was “being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky.” McQueary, with the panic and horror most adults fresh out of college would feel, recounted the event to his father, and with his advice, set up a meeting with Joe Paterno the following day to inform the coach of what he saw. The next day, Paterno reported the incident to Curley, his immediate supervisor.
After that weekend, it took a week and a half for Curley to take any further action. He set up a meeting with himself, McQueary, and Gary Schultz, the Senior Vice President of Finance and Business and the overseer of the University Police.
The conclusion of this meeting led to another two weeks of inaction, and when Curley finally gave McQueary a definitive response, it was simply that Sandusky’s locker room keys had been rescinded, and that the event had been reported to the Second Mile, Sandusky’s charity organization.
It can only be speculated at this point what happened over that two week period of inaction, but it can be fairly assumed that there was time spent on protecting an image, a coach and a program known for its impeccably clean record, and not an ounce of effort dedicated to the protection of the very victims Sandusky would allegedly continue to violate over the next nine years.
Then, there is the issue of Victim 8, who was spotted with Sandusky in an assistant coaches shower in the fall of 2000, a year after he had retired as defensive coordinator at Penn State. A janitor, now identified as James Calhoun, saw Sandusky performing oral sex acts on the boy, and later witnessed them leaving the Lasch Football facility hand in hand. Later that evening after the event had occured, according to testimony from one time Office of Physical Plant employee Ronald Petrosky, Calhoun approached him “upset and crying” and Petrosky feared Calhoun was going to suffer a heart attack, as did several co-workers. The incident was never reported, though, because Calhoun and his fellow employees, being relatively new, decided that reporting the incident could lead to being fired.
In what kind of environment does reporting a crime, a deviant and malicious one at that, lead to getting fired? The only answer is an environment that is motivated solely by protection, a protection that uses shadowy, backdoor tactics that suppresses anything that may harm the program or the university.
The official statement released by university president Graham Spanier Saturday afternoon may be even more telling as to why and how such indecency was allowed to take place. In his statement, Spanier, who had no problem with a minimal investigation into the alledged events reported by McQueary, claimed that “it is appropriate that they [the allegations] be investigated thoroughly. Protecting children requires the utmost vigilance.”
Why it took eight years for Spanier to reverse his thought process on how to protect children may never be known, but what came later in his statement speaks larger volumes to the seemingly covered up events:
“I wish to say that Tim Curley and Gary Schultz have my unconditional support. I have known and worked daily with Tim and Gary for more than 16 years.”
Twelve years, roughly the amount of time Curley and Schultz had been associated with Spanier at the time of the 2002 incident, is a long time to know someone– long enough to trust someone’s instincts and problem solving with unconditional support, long enough to take their word, and long enough to not question their logic out of respect for the relationship.
But no amount of loyalty is reason enough to rubber stamp a decision that allowed, as the Pennsylvania attorney general described Sandusky, a “sexual predator,” to roam freely, allegedly harrassing and violating more young boys from his Second Mile Foundation. Unfortunately, that is exactly what Spanier did when he nonchalantly approved Curley’s course of action.
It all adds up to a disastrous situation for a university which had always been above reproach. But this series of incidents hedges on the very morals countless alumni have recited flawlessly: “Success with Honor.”
In the final paragraph of Paterno’s statement Sunday evening, released by the Harrisburg Patriot-News, he asked for fairness, for continued trust, and for all Penn Staters to “continue to trust in what that name represents, continue to pursue their lives every day with high ideals and not let these events shake their beliefs nor who they are.”
The problem with that is the statement completely contradicts Paterno’s and the administrations actions in 2002. The fair thing to do would be to potentially sever a relationship with a trusted assistant to protect the innocent. The trustworthy thing to do would be to restore the trust of childhood in to the lives of the children who were already alledgely violated by Sandusky in 2002 and prior. To pursue life every day with high ideals would be to damn the actions of not reporting, of not investigating, of not looking at the evidence right in front of them.
Sorry, Joe, but the ideals of integrity, morality, and human decency are shattered for many Penn Staters forever, fourteen years later than they should have been.