Penn State Values: The System that Discourages Making Waves
On the problem of Not Making Waves in America.
The moral of the Jerry Sandusky saga is this: Pennsylvania State University, as an institution, decided that protecting Joe Paterno’s reputation and winning a few more football games was more important than stopping the ongoing rape of young boys.
Of course, no one ever said anything like that out loud. Indeed, it’s likely that none of the many people who knew or suspected that Sandusky was a child molester ever made a conscious calculation that protecting the football program was more important than protecting the boys Sandusky was raping.
Such a level of conscious sociopathic indifference to suffering is fairly rare. What isn’t rare are all the psychological, social, and legal mechanisms that allow someone like Sandusky to flourish in the midst of Our Great Little Town. For at least a decade, and probably far longer, State College was full of people who deliberately closed their eyes to the truth about Sandusky.
These people didn’t know the truth only because they didn’t want to know it. The best example of this pattern of denial is provided by how Mike McQueary’s witnessing Sandusky’s anal rape of a 10-year-old boy in a shower was, within 24 hours, transformed into “something of a sexual nature” when reported by Joe Paterno to his formal administrative superiors and then within a few days into what university president Graham Spanier characterized as “conduct that made someone uncomfortable.”
Everyone knew, but everyone decided not to know—starting with Paterno, who, despite his canny attempts to play the role of the naive and befuddled old man, forced Sandusky off his staff all the way back in 1999, shortly after the first formal criminal complaint (that we know of) against Sandusky was filed with the police—a complaint that resulted in a 95-page police report, but, mysteriously, no charges.
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