Thoughts on the recent Penn State scandal

Penn State has been in the news a lot lately the past week or so.

Penn State is a bit important to me as my parents met while both attending college there (both my parents were born and raised near the Pittsburgh area - Uniontown & Brownsville to be exact), so we're part of the Penn State family. Growing up, my parents would often wear their college sweatshirts on the weekends, watching the football games on Saturdays while doing other things around the house. I even remember constantly getting in their bedroom closet to play with their Nittany Lion plush (mom didn't want me to mess it up so she would put it up, out of reach... or so she thought!).

I didn't really hear or look into what happened until late last week when I heard about Joe Paterno getting fired and riots happening... something having to do with sexual abuse of children. Trying to figure out what exactly happened, why people were upset or defending Paterno and in order to form an opinion of my own I went searching online and came across an article that included the 23 page grand jury report of what all happened, naming a handful of others that knew of Sandusky's inappropriate and sick behavior.

To brief you (if you were lost and didn't hear about the scandal til later like I did and only heard people going on about Paterno and not really discussing what actually happened):

  • The former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky hosted a program at the university for underprivileged boys called Second Mile in the '90s and 2000s. There's recently been 8 victims that have come forward saying Sandusky physically sexually abused them, some even saying it went as far as rape, when they were teens and preteens who met Sandusky while participating in the program.
  • One of the more extreme incidents that occurred in the locker room showers in 2002 was witnessed by assistant PSU football coach Mike McQueary who was a graduate assistant at the time. McQueary returned to the locker rooms one evening to put away a pair of shoes and grab some recruiting films to take back to his office when he heard something going on in the showers, where he witnessed Sandusky doing "something of sexual nature" with a young boy. Despite Sandusky and the boy seeing him, McQueary turned away and left, doing nothing to stop it.
  • McQueary did however return to his office and call his father and informed head coach Joe Paterno of what he saw. Not having witnessed it himself, Paterno followed protocal and reported it to PSU athletic director Tim Curley. Curley and the Sr. VP for Finance and Business Gary Schultz then met with McQueary to discuss what he saw. It's reported that Curley and Schultz did tell the PSU president Graham Spanier, however it's been said that Spanier was only told that Sandusky was just "horsing around" with a boy in the showers, not that he was sexually taking advantage of a child.

Honestly, I think Joe Paterno is the least of the people that should be held accountable here - if anything he was simply a messenger or a middleman. To him it was hearsay and from reading about it, he was following protocol/policy.

McQueary and Paterno
McQueary was the one that witnessed it, could have stopped it and taken the boy to safety and report it to the police himself. If anyone should have followed up on it, it should have been McQueary as Schultz and Curley had met with him - all Paterno did was inform the necessary PSU authority that there might be a situation, that one of his staff claimed to have witnessed Sandusky doing something inappropriate, and put them in touch with McQueary so they could begin an investigation. It was out of his hands, I see him as simply being the messenger here. Sure, he could have followed up, but again, to him it was just hearsay; McQueary was the one who actually witnessed it and should have done more.

Think about it, if you inform the necessary authorities as per protocol/policy about a serious situation, you most likely would assume that they would do their part/job. If you had only heard about the situation and still saw the person in question around wouldn't you most likely assume that nothing came of the investigation? However, if you actually did witness something such as McQueary did and still saw the person around wouldn't you question what was going on and why no punishment was carried out?

And while it doesn't excuse anything, we do have to remember that Paterno is an older man, from the older generation who often believes that your word is your bond - if you say you're going to do something, that means you're going to do it. He most likely believed that Curley would take care of the situation like he was supposed to (and most likely told Joe he would), and he probably, honestly thought nothing came of it. I know if it was me, I probably would have made the same assumption - that nothing came of the investigation and that McQueary was mistaken about what he said he saw.

If anyone should have gotten fired right away, I would think it would be McQueary, Curley and Schultz for dropping the ball and not making more of an effort. Thankfully, Curley and Schultz have been charged with perjury, as their stories didn't match up and clearly they didn't take McQueary seriously as they told the PSU president Sandusky was only seen "horsing around" with a boy in the showers. McQueary should have followed up with Schultz and Curley though and he should have tried to help the boy rather than walking away. From what we know, Paterno's involvement was just that he was a messenger. And you know the saying - you don't shoot the messenger.

And that poor child... in the grand jury report, all the victims say they became uncomfortable with Sandusky. This one, to have seen McQueary walk in... I can only imagine the relief he felt, in hoping that here, someone would help and put a stop to Sandusky and then the despair when he saw McQueary do nothing and just simply walk away instead.

Being a mother of a boy... stuff like this scares me. Eventually he's going to want to do programs or join clubs similar to Second Mile (whether it be Boy Scouts, sports, whatever) where adults are trusted to supervisor the kids and protect them, not take advantage of them. Many of the victims said things with Sandusky started out innocent - dinner over at his house with his family, joining him for professional sporting games nearby with a few other kids... things you would think you could be okay with your child joining a trusted coach or mentor to do. But unfortunately some adults you think you can trust are just sick. And that scares me.

If they're cleaning house at PSU of anyone who had any knowledge or involvement of what happened, that's fine and understandable. However I feel it's quite unfair for them to single out Paterno like he has been when to him it was just hearsay and he was just following protocol being the messenger.

What are your thoughts?

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