It looks like the report on what happened at Penn State confirms what many people suspected:
Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and other university leaders “repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse” from authorities, according to Louis Freeh, the former FBI director who conducted an investigation for the university in the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.
Freeh also found that “although concern to treat the child abuser humanely was expressly stated, no such sentiments were ever expressed” by university officials, including Paterno and the university president, for Sandusky’s victims.
The report details the numerous ways in which former President Graham B. Spanier, former Senior Vice President Gary C. Schultz, former Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley, and former Head Football Coach Joseph V. Paterno protected Jerry Sandusky. As the report puts it:
These men concealed Sandusky’s activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities. They exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky’s victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being, especially by not attempting to determine the identity of the child who Sandusky assaulted in the Lasch Building in 2001. Further, they exposed this child to additional harm by alerting Sandusky, who was the only one who knew the child’s identity, of what McQueary saw in the shower on the night of February 9, 2001. (p.14)
That is just the beginning of what happened at Penn State. For example, when Schultz and Spanier were informed of the 1998 accusation, their concern was primarily about protecting Sandusky and the university. Instead of reporting anything to the police, they first contact Paterno to let him know. The group then tried to figure out how to deal with Sandusky, but they only considered reporting him as a last resort. During this time Spanier met with the Board of Trustees, but he failed to tell them about the investigation. Spanier, Schultz, Curley, and Paterno were only concerned with the most “humane” approach in how they treat Sandusky, not how to help the boy Sandusky abused.
The report’s revelations contradict the claims Spanier, Paterno, Curley, and Schultz made. The report shows that Paterno, Curley, and Schultz lied about their knowledge of the 1998 incident to the Grand Jury. It also shows that in 2001 no one made any effort to find out who the boy was that Mike McQueary saw in the shower with Sandusky. Instead, they told Sandusky about the allegations, giving him time to potentially concoct a story, contact the boy, and convince him to say whatever Sandusky wanted. Worse:
After the Commonwealth brought criminal charges against Schultz in November 2011, Schultz’s assistant removed some of the Sandusky files from Schultz’s Penn State office and delivered them to Schultz. The assistant failed to disclose in two interviews with the Special investigative Counsel that the Sandusky files had been removed. Only in May 2012 did the existence of these important files comes to light so that the documents could be retrieved.
Schultz’s handwritten notes, which he marked as “confidential,” reflect a Monday, February 12, 2001 meeting with Curley to discuss the Sandusky allegations. According to Schultz’s notes, Curley and Schultz talked and first “[r]reviewed 1998 history.” The notes state that Schultz and Curley “[a]greed [Curley] will discuss w JVP (Paterno) & advise we think [Curley] should meet w JS (Sandusky) on Friday. Unless he ‘confesses’ to having a problem, TMC (Curley) will indicate we need to have DPW review the matter as an independent agency concerned w child welfare.” (p.69-70)
Rather than punish Sandusky or ban him from coming back to the campus, in 1999 they gave Sandusky a sweet severance package when he retired:
A retirement agreement with Sandusky is reached in June 1999, including an unusual lump sum payment of $168,000, an agreement for the University to “work collaboratively” with Sandusky on Second Mile and other community activities, and free lifetime use of East Area Locker Room facilities. […] In August 1999, Sandusky is granted “emeritus” rank, which carries several privileges, including access to University recreational facilities. Documents show the unusual request for emeritus rank originated from Schultz, was approved by Spanier, and granted by the Provost, who expressed some uneasiness about the decision given Sandusky’s low academic rank and the precedent it would set. (p.21)
No explanation is given as to why Sandusky gets such an unprecedented deal. It does not appear to be a pay off for anything in particular, although in a letter to Sandusky Paterno explained that had Sandusky not been so focused on the Second Mile he would have been the next head coach. What is clear is that everyone seems to bend over backwards to accommodate Sandusky, even ignoring that he violated his promise not to bring boys on Penn State property or shower with them.
Most stunning about the officials’ reactions is that while Spanier gives Sandusky a pass, he previously banned a sports agent from all Penn State campuses for buying $400 worth of clothing for a player:
Spanier never declared Sandusky a “persona non grata” on Penn State campuses, as he did toward a sports agent who, before the 1997 Citrus Bowl, bought $400 worth of clothing for a Penn State football player. Spanier was very aggressive in that case and banned the agent from campus. Spanier said the agent “fooled around with the integtrity of the university, and I won’t stand for that.” (p.52)
And it was not just the Penn State officials who aided in the cover-up. When a janitor witnessed Sandusky performing oral sex on a boy, he does not report it:
A senior janitorial employee “Janitor C”) on duty that night spoke with the staff, who had gathered with Janitor A to calm him down. Janitor C advised Janitor A how he could report what he saw, if he wanted to do so. Janitor B said he would stand by Janitor A if her reported the incident to the police, but Janitor A said, “no, they’ll get rid of all of us.”
Janitor B explained to the Special Investigative Counsel that reporting the incident “would have been like going against the President of the United States in my eyes.” “I know Paterno has so much power, if he wanted to get ride of someone, I would have been gone.” He explained “football runs this University,” and said that the University would have closed ranks to protect the football program at all costs. (p.65)
The report shows that time and time again people who had the chance to speak up either protected Sandusky, Penn State, or their jobs. Even the Board of Trustees failed to pay any attention to the matter until it made national news. Back in 1998, Spanier hid the information from them. In 2001, they had limited knowledge of what happened, but did nothing. In 2011, Spanier and Cynthia Baldwin downplayed the severity of the charges, and the Board made no effort to investigate the matter themselves or demand more details than the little tidbits Spanier gave them.
More so, until recently, the Board did not require anyone to report to them about situations like Sandusky’s conduct. Likewise, no one from risk management or the human resources department were told about the allegations against Sandusky. Had they been told, they could have prevented him from having access to the school or might have reported him to the authorities.
This is and will forever remain a scar on Penn State, and not just because so many people had the chance to stop Sandusky, but also because the gold star of Penn Star, Joe Paterno, turned out not to be the altruistic man everyone thought he was.
Beyond the changes that will be made regarding reporting abuse, the Penn State culture needs to change, and there needs to be real consequences for this. Other schools have had their programs shut down for less. Perhaps the NCAA should shut down Penn State’s football program to send the message that no sport is more important than a child.