The report issued today about the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal — and the egregious institutional failures at Penn State that permitted Sandusky to continue to act as a sexual predator for years — is a thoroughly damning document. Investigators led by former FBI director Louis Freeh conducted more than 400 interviews and found from the evidence they collected that University leaders showed a shocking disregard for the interests of Sandusky’s victims.
In prepared statement, Freeh said: “Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.” Instead, Freeh states, former Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and former head football coach Joe Paterno, upon learning of the infamous incident involving Sandusky and a young boy in a shower, concealed facts, consciously decided not to report Sandusky’s conduct to authorities, and made no attempt to even identify — much less help — the young boy who was the victim of Sandusky’s depredation. The report also implicates Penn State’s former president, who was ousted in the wake of the scandal, and the University’s Board of Trustees. According to the CNN article linked above, however, none of the Board’s 32 trustees plans to resign, notwithstanding their failure to exercise the oversight that is the reason for the Board’s existence in the first place.
The report is just another disturbing chapter in what has become an increasingly troubling story — not just of the appalling criminal conduct of one man, but of a previously respected academic institution that completely lost its way and was unable to behave responsibly, morally, and ethically when confronted with evidence of that criminal conduct. With every revelation of cover-ups and blame-shifting by Penn State officials and employees, the focus shifts away from the vile Sandusky and toward the compromised and corrupted University. The fact that none of the Penn State trustees is willing to do the decent thing, and resign in recognition of their failures, is just another sign of Penn State’s fundamental accountability problems.
If I were a Penn State alum or student, or even a citizen of the state that allows the University to carry its name, I would insist on a thorough housecleaning that swept out the University administration, from trustees on down, and brought in people who know that, as leaders of an important academic and cultural institution, their first duty must be to act as responsible members of society. Apparently, that’s a lesson that needs learning in State College, Pennsylvania.