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The Penn State Scandal From the (Former) Paterno Chair


Michael Berube’s piece is, of course, excellent. This point deserves further emphasis:

What we do know is that everyone who had any knowledge of the 1998 investigation should have rung every available alarm, and gone to every appropriate authority, after McQueary reported what he saw in 2001. No one in the Penn State leadership did so, and that—not their responses three years earlier, when the district attorney sounded the all-clear—is what is unforgivable.

So there are two institutional failures here. The first, in 1998, is primarily a failure of our police and child-protection authorities. The second, in 2001, is primarily a failure of university governance. In between the first and the second, we now know that a couple of Penn State janitors, too, were aware of Sandusky’s criminal escapades, but told themselves they would lose their jobs if they reported what they saw. The cover-up in 2001 strongly suggests that their fear of a culture of secrecy at Penn State was well founded.

And that is damning enough—to the reputations of the men who never reported Sandusky to the police, and to the reputation of the university that once prided itself on its athletics integrity. That alone is enough to compel me to resign the chair I had once been so honored to hold.

Conflating 1998 and 2001, as I’ve said before, also plays into the hands of Joe Paterno’s apologists by allowing them to point out that lots of people failed to see that Sandusky was a monster. That’s a fair point before McQueary talked to him, but certainly not afterwards, and this would be true even if Paterno (implausibly) knew nothing about the 1998 investigation.

There are other important points here as well; I shouldn’t have taken Vicky Triponey’s story at face value for example. Anyway, the whole thing is worth reading.

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