The story told by the grand jury report on former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky is truly horrific. It is a terrible thing to read, and an even more terrible thing to contemplate, because it says deeply disturbing things about our society.
Of course, the allegations of Sandusky’s wrongful interactions with underage boys are just that — allegations that have not been proven in a court of law. However, what seems to be undisputed is that various Penn State officials were told of the alleged misconduct and nevertheless failed to report that information to the police so that the matter could be properly investigated. This inexplicable inaction was the crucial and unforgivable failure. By not alerting the appropriate authorities, the Penn State officials effectively assumed the role of investigator, prosecutor, judge, and jury and eliminated any chance that the criminal justice system could work as intended. I have yet to read any rational, sensible explanation for this awful failure — and I frankly cannot imagine that any such explanation exists.
The story of what happened, and didn’t happen, at Penn State is not a sports story. Instead, it is a story about an institution that lost its moral compass and its ability to distinguish right from wrong, an institution that did not comply with the most basic responsibilities and moral and ethical obligations imposed on all members of a civiilized society. How could such a thing happen? How could an institution of higher education have lost its way so profoundly?
Edited to add: Last night the Penn State Board of Trustees fired the University’s Preisdent, Graham Spanier, and its legendary head football coach, Joe Paterno, for their conduct in connection with the scandal.