Seriously, Did We Really Learn Nothing From Joe Paterno & the Penn State Debacle?

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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122 Responses

  1. Patrick Cahalan says:

    Seconded.  Thirded, even.Report

  2. greginak says:

    100% agree. This kind of push back was completely predictable. Once the furor wore off the “lets not argue over who killed who” faction was bound to come out.Report

  3. Robert Cheeks says:

    Joe got what he deserved.

    Does anything change, re: Joe’s inaction, if Sandusky is found guilty of child rape?Report

  4. Roger says:

    I too concur.Report

  5. Chris says:

    It probably should be noted that Paterno didn’t just take the easy road, he took the only road that, at the time, would preserve his career. When this stuff came out, he was on the decline as a coach, the alumni were grumbling, and there were rumors he was going to be forced out. Had something like this come out back then (in the early 2000s), Paterno almost certainly would have been gone. And I’m quite sure he knew that.Report

  6. Kim says:

    In the depths of my uncaring mind echo the screams of children being abused right now.

    I don’t give a shit what people say or don’t say bout Paterno.

    I care what they’re saying about the OTHER kids.Report

    • Robert Cheeks in reply to Kim says:

      Shouldn’t we have a trial first, before we pass judgement on the events?Report

      • Kim in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

        Bobby, bobby, bobby,

        A trial is for things that come to light.

        Things that dwell in darkness never needed a trial since the world began. Blood and tears and pain — the wages for living in darkness, where might makes right, and good is only a dream…

        I don’t expect there to EVER be a trial for half the shit pulled in college football.Report

  7. Sam says:

    Everything here is excellent.

    However, I’m suspicious of the idea that we should expend energy remembering the rest of this man’s life. He looked the other way when children were being raped. I really don’t care if he’d won a thousand football games. The one outweighs the other.

    If there is any reason to remember Paterno’s coaching and fundraising achievements, it is simply to always remember that seemingly even the greatest of men are capable of terrible actions. Clearly, that was long ago forgotten by many at Penn State, who conspired (unknowingly or knowingly because of respect for the man and the institution) to create an environment in which children were preyed upon for decades.Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to Sam says:

      However, I’m suspicious of the idea that we should expend energy remembering the rest of this man’s life. He looked the other way when children were being raped. I really don’t care if he’d won a thousand football games. The one outweighs the other.

      This is a common enough sentiment, but it is one that really strikes me as misplaced.  While it is not a morally abhorrent sentiment such as that expressed by those portraying Paterno as the victim here, it is a sentiment that grossly misunderstands why many of us nonetheless want to “expend energy remembering the rest of this man’s life.”

      It is not because he won lots of football games, I assure you.  Had this happened at Florida State to Bobby Bowden, there would be dramatically fewer people concerned with remembering the rest of the coach’s life.  Paterno’s success on the field is only a small portion of why so many continue to view him as a beloved figure.Report

      • This.

        The reason I hope Paterno is remembered for the positives is exactly because his career is so overwhelmingly filled with them.Report

        • Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          I still find this dubious. It looks an awful lot like Paterno was saving his own ass at the expense of the physical and psychological well-being of children. I don’t know how much you’d have to do in a lifetime to make up for that, as a legacy, but I’m willing to bet it’s more than he did.Report

          • Mark Thompson in reply to Chris says:

            That’s certainly a reasonable way to look at it.  My point was just that, in balancing the positives and negatives, it’s not fair to those who hope he is remembered more positively than negatively to say that the “positives” are just “he won a lot of football games.”Report

          • BSK in reply to Chris says:

            Why can’t we be nuanced?  People are not wholly good or wholly evil.  We are never as bright as we look on our best days nor as dull as we look on our worst days.  Some of us have higher highs and some lower lows and some seem to operate only at the extremes, with incredible highs coupled with incredible lows.  Why must we do all this moral calculus, adding points for this and subtracting points for that and making a final assessment based on where the number is in relation to zero?

            I am disgusted by Paterno’s failing in this area.  Disgusted.  Make no bones about that.  But I realize he was a human with flaws and that it is possible to recognize the positives and the negatives.  I know that cognitive dissonance is a very real thing, but there is no reason we should submit to being victims to it.Report

            • BSK in reply to BSK says:

              I thinking about this, I’m reminded of the Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga.  Galarraga lost a perfect game on the 27th out on a blown call by the umpire.  He handled it amazingly.  While he teammates rallied to his defense and confronted the umpire, Galarraga shook it off, finished the game, and later was quoted as saying, “Nobody’s perfect,” without a hint of sarcasm or snark.  People wanted to give the guy the goddamn Nobel Prize.

              During a game later that season (or perhaps the next season) a call went again Galarraga and he lost his ish, eventually getting tossed.  Everyone was saying, “Woh… maybe he isn’t the great guy we thought.  What a jerk!”

              My response was, “Here’s a guy who handled one situation amazingly well and one situation poorly.  Kinda like everyone else in the world.”

              I don’t mean to compare a pitcher’s response to bad calls to child rape.  Instead, I want to draw an analogy between the public responses.  People knew little about Galarraga, who hadn’t had much success to that point.  After the second incident, most people knew him for two things and two things only: his handling of the blown call and his ejection.  This isn’t too different than what most people know about Paterno, which consist of all his wins and the child rape situation.

              I’ll admit to not knowing much about Paterno beyond those two things.  I’m sure there is more to him, good, bad, and indifferent, than wins and child rape.  I’m comfortable saying that Paterno was a man who did a hell of a lot of good on the football field, seemed to do a lot of good for a great number of young men on and off the football field, and made some terrible choices that led to terrible, horrible things happening to children.  I don’t need to sum him up in one word or feel just one way about him.  I don’t need to decide if the good outweighs the bad.

              Why do so many others feel that they DO need a final verdict?  One that refuses to acknowledge nuance and can fit on a fortune cookie paper?Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to BSK says:

              De mortuis nihil nisi bonum. JoePa’s already got a statue up, nobody’s going to forget him. He’s part of history, for better or worse. A tall mountain casts a long shadow and an eyewitness to the rape of a minor child didn’t go to the police and it got covered up for years like a land mine JoePa sorta forgot about….

              So it was a moral failing. We all fail, even by our own moral standards. The secret to keeping the moral signal flat is to quit making excuses for what we do. It helps to say sorry when you’re wrong but it helps more to quit repeating the behaviour, persisting in self-delusion, you’re not deluding anyone else. Forgiveness is free, quit blaming yourself, that’s not change. Just keep your moral keel down. Adapt.

              The system failed for these children. Our only valid response is to bear witness to that failing and learn from it. JoePa died with a broken heart, stepping on the land mine he’d buried all those years ago.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Wise words BP. Here’s how I think the whole deal went down. Sandy gets busted for ‘inappropriate behavior’ (is that really what we’re supposed to call it?) back in ’99, if not ’96. The reports go to Paterno and the higher ups. A quick and immediate decision to let Sandusky spend more time with his family is made – for very cynical reasons. Reports of the ‘evidence’ goes through appropriate channels and an investigation is conducted, ultimately yielding the conclusion that the evidence is ‘inconclusive’ (or whatever word they’ll use when this goes to trial).

                But then, to the amazement of Captain Hindsight, they let Sandy back in the facitlities to conduct his football camp for young boys! Whether this was a quid-pro-quo or not remains to be seen, but it’s hard to believe that the University approached Sandy with an offer here. Then, to the surprise of no one, Sandy does it again! And it’s impossible at this point for the University to openly act on this incident without implicating themselves for their prior transgressions and knowingly permitting an alleged pedophile back on campus. Cover-ups, denials, and cover-ups of cover-ups, run rampant.

                So what was supposed to be a little broom-sweep under the ‘we terminated him’ rug came back to bite everyone in the ass. As it always does.


        • Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          And remember, Paterno essentially fired Sandusky at the height of Sandusky’s career, towards the beginning of the decline of Paterno’s. It’s not just likely, but probable, that Paterno and others knew what was going on (there was a friggin’ investigation, and the school and athletic department knew that), and that as it did later, it threatened Paterno’s career. In short, this is his legacy, and for those who think that’s a shame, cry me a river.Report

          • Tod Kelly in reply to Chris says:

            As I said in the OP, I can’t really know what was in Paterno’s heart.  You may well be correct.  We’ll probably never know.

            In these cases I choose to look at the man’s entire career,and when I do so in this case I give him the benefit of the doubt.  But this is not a statement of authority, just a gut feeling; I can totally see where you can look at it and come down where you do.Report

            • Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

              As I see it, Paterno did a lot for Penn Sate: he gave them a first-rate football program for many years, he gave the university exposure it otherwise would not have received, and he gave, if I’m nost mistaken, a substantial amount of money to the university. I’m not sure, on top of that, what he did to be considered this great moral icon even above average (or even average) morally. When you add what he did between 1998 and the late 2000s with respect to Sandusky, the moral calculus looks like it’s going to weigh heavily against him to me. I’d be interested in knowing what he did, outside of football and helping Penn State, that some people think should outshine the mistakes he made with Sandusky.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Chris says:

                I think when people talk highly of Paterno (pre-scandal, that is) it wasn’t that he won so much.  It was that Penn State was seen as a model for a program that over time avoided recruitment violations, and worked at graduating players – two things that are hard to come by these days.  How accurate was that reputation?  I’m not really sure, since I don’t really follow such things – but that was the school’s reputation.Report

              • Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                He ran a pretty spottless ship, recruiting-wise. I don’t know of any NCAA investigations into his recruiting or his handling of players. Also, he had a relatively high graduation rate. Now, his players were accused of several crimes over the years, particularly over the last 15 or so, and he’s been pretty lax with them, but that’s not unusual. I just don’t find any of this particularly awe-inspiring.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Chris says:

                In today’s age, I think it is pretty awe-inspiring.

                And if that’s not a pretty solid indictment of big money college athletics today, I don’t know what it.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to Chris says:

                I think it has been difficult for coaches of long standing to adjust to the differences in the times.  Nebraska’s Tom Osborne also ran a very clean program.  While he was still offensive coordinator, he was involved in reinstating Johnny Rodgers after Rodgers’ felony conviction.  The team took relatively little heat for it, and Rodgers went on to be successful in both football and life.  25 years later, in 1995, Osborne handled the Lawrence Phillips case in the same fashion, and got absolutely roasted by the national media.  Phillips left for the NFL early, and hasn’t turned out nearly so well as Rodgers did.

                I’ve always wondered how much the media storm over Phillips had to do with Osborne’s decision about when to retire from coaching.Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to Chris says:

                Chris, you’re hangin’ the dude without a trial, and allegations of child rape should require a trial..yes/no? Your attitude here is not librul!Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                He’s not being hung, Bob  (for one thing, the guy is already dead).

                You have every right to a trial when the state is the one accusing you and prison or death is the consequence.  You don’t have a right to a trial in the court of public opinion.

                At least, I don’t see any way to enforce such an animal.  Nor do I think public shunning should require the same evidential burden as a criminal proceeding.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                I agree with Cheeks. It isn’t so much that the guy shouldn’t get what he deserves, it’s just that we don’t know what he deserves and yet we’re acting like we do. For my part, I remain agnostic on the legal issue of Paterno’s guilt. I’m inclined to think he serves some moral blame for the way things went down, but most of my moral outrage goes towards Sandusky (obv) and then in descending order: the AD, the University Pres., the BoT (to the extent they were aware of the allegations which some evidence implies), Paterno.

                It’s a classic case of scapegoating, even if Paterno is guilty, and that distracts attention from those ultimately responsible for the cover-up. The AD and the University President.


              • Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

                “I agree with Cheeks. It isn’t so much that the guy shouldn’t get what he deserves, it’s just that we don’t know what he deserves and yet we’re acting like we do.”

                How exactly are we doing this?Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                You, for one, said that as a matter of fact he violated the law.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

                Aside from the fact that Cheeks is talking about Sandusky and I’m talking about Paterno….

                I’m not sure why if you have committed a fireable offense at your job and have thus been terminated, why there is a question about whether or not you got “what you deserved?”

                What you do or don’t deserve is immaterial.  You committed a fireable offense, and you were terminated.  It’s not an employer’s duty to make morality the basis for decisions in these matters.

                I think you are looking at this a moral issue instead of an HR issue.  And that’s fine and well for you or I to look at it that way, but for the University it has to be simple HR issue.  Paterno was both an employee and a manager, and they are not suing him or filing charges against him; they are merely terminating his employment.

                Now, if you have committed a fireable offense, it may well be that there are others in the organization that need to be terminated as well for the same issue.  (And that may well be the case at Penn State.)  But it is a separate question.  If I pay for a new car with company checks and am found out, I will be fired.  That other people in the company may have done the same thing, or knew about it and didn’t report me or even told me not to worry about it doesn’t mean that I won’t be fired.

                Fireable offense are friable offenses.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                Fireable offense are friable offenses.

                It seems so.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                And you’re right that I was confused about what Cheeks was arguing.

                I rescind my prior agreement with him!Report

              • Chris in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                Bob, I’m not even talking about Sandusky. We know what Paterno knew, and I’m talking only about Paterno.

                But hey, good lookin’ out.Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                Adding to that: we know that Paterno knew in 1998 and in the early 2000s that Sandusky was under investigation for sex with a minor, and one of his coaches told Paterno directly that he had witnessed him having sex with a minor in a football facility. So, even putting aside whether Paterno did his legal duty in reporting it to his immediate superior, the fact that Paterno didn’t say anything when nothing came of it, and didn’t say anything when Sandusky continued to show up to football events with children, is all I need to know about him. You may want to know more, and that’s fine. You may think I’m being illiberal, and that’s fine. It matters not what happens to Sandusky at trial, to me, because Paterno’s errors were made regardless.Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to Chris says:

                C’mon yous guys, this whole scenerio rests on Sandusky’s guilt or innocence!

                 If he’s innocent, firing Paterno was bs!

                You guys are rushing to judgement without DUE FISHIN’ PROCESS! Libertarians my ass!

                Gimme the RULE OF LAW not the court of public opinion!Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                No Bob, it doesn’t. We know what Paterno was told. We know what he should have done with that information. We know what he did with that information. We don’t need to know whether Sandusky was guilty or innocent to know the difference between the should have done and the did.Report

              • BSK in reply to Chris says:

                Chris is right.  It does not matter whether Sandusky is guilty or innocent.  Ends do not justify means.  If Paterno was given credible evidence that an assault was taking place, he was dutybound to report it.  If he failed to meet his duties, he ought to be accountable for that.  Even if the charges proved false, he did not know that they would and, as such, had no reason to abscond from his duties.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

                Not only is Sandusky’s guilt irrelevant wrt the legal obligations incurred on those with evidence of his behavior. His guilt is irrelevant wrt whether a cover-up of the accusations took place. Which lots of evidence seems to suggest.Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to Chris says:

                But, didn’t Paterno report these allegations to superiors?  Who was responsible to report the allegations to police? If Paterno didn’t believe they had merit, he wouldn’t be inclined to report them to police. But, he did report them to his superiors, as I understand it? And, hasn’t the redheaded coach’s story changed?

                And, what if Paterno didn’t give those making the allegations any credibility. Sandusky and his family ran that poor kid thing for years and he always had kids with him, yes/no? What if Paterno was giving his defensive coordinator the benefit of the doubt? What if Paterno couldn’t believe ol’ Jerry was raping little boys, that people with a grudge against him were behind it, all sorts of scenerios here. And, in the end, wasn’t it a judgement call on Paterno’s part?

                I just don’t like that a man can be fired based on an allegation that may or may not be factual. There has to be some sort of public adjudication where facts can be determined.  I can understand suspending Paterno, even without pay, until a factual determination can be made. But, I disagree with dismissal and the resultant loss of his reputation, based, at least right now, on an accusation.

                People have been giving false testimony for a very long time.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

                Robert Cheeks,

                I agree with a lot of this. I think it’s still an open question as to whether Paterno did or didn’t fulfill his legal obligations by reporting this stuff to his superiors (those with the authority and responsibility to investigate the matter). Personally, I’m suspicious of the claim that Paterno had an obligation to perform an investigation of the matter, since football coaches are normally accorded (at least to my knowledge) with an investigative arm of the football program at their disposal. His responsibility, minimally, is to report the evidence to those administrative superiors who actually do have authority and responsibility to investigate this type of stuff.

                So my issue in this thread isn’t to argue that Paterno’s innocent, but rather that I haven’t seen any evidence yet that’s he’s guilty of a crime. (Even tho he might be guilty of committing a ‘fireable offense’).Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Chris says:

                Still, I think you are arguing against points no one is making.

                No one (to my knowledge) is saying that Paterno himself must perform any investigation, but management must.  But he must report it; and it can’t me a “oh I mentioned it to so-and-so.”  He has to formally report it.  The university says that he did not, and he said that he did, but was unable to produce any documentation that he did.  It’s a case of he said she said, but one side has records on its side, and the other says it never bothered to record anything.  Fair or not, that scenario only goes down one way.  It doesn’t matter if you’re famous or not.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

                Tod, the view I’m arguing against actually was put forward by someone. You. You have said in the OP or in comments that Paterno was fired for: violating a statutory law (OP), violating case law (comments), failing to perform an investigation, failing to follow up on the whether an investigation had been performed, failing to acto according to University SOPs regarding reporting sexual misconduct.

                Part of the problem here is that in comments you admitted that no one knows that actually happened. Yet you feel comfortable making all of the above claims.

                It seem to me like your using the fact that he was fired as evidence that he did something illegal. And I don’t think you’ve made that case.Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to Chris says:

                STillwater your case against Tod has merit. There has to be some public adjudication, some findings of fact/conclusion of law on Paterno’s actions or lack thereof and not on the hearsay bs that my devoted friend Chris and others are bloviating on. My goodness people, my point has always been that we have to arrive at the TRUTH, not hearsay, not he said/he said. As I said yous guys are starting to scare me!Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Chris says:

                Still, with all due respect, you continue to muddle up the issue of Paterno with theories about what other people might or might not have done.  And for my part in going down those rabbit holes, I apologize.  So let me start again:

                To be clear, then, as far as Paterno is concerned, someone reported a sexual crime by a member of his staff that took place on school property to him.  As a manager, he was required to either formally investigate that allegation, or formally request one. (And most likely, he also had a responsibility to report a crime or ensure that someone within the University did to the outside authorities.) Period.  Depending upon who you believe, Paterno either:

                A. Did not report anything to anyone.

                B. Mentioned it to someone, but did not formally request an investigation – nor did he ever follow up to make sure that an investigation was performed.  Nor did he make any written note, memo or email documenting that he did so.

                Whether A or B happened, he committed a fireable offense.  Whether A or B happened, the board had a choice to terminate him for committing a fireable offense, or retain him but further put the University’s assets at risk with the lawsuits they knew were coming.

                Whatever theory you or anyone else might have about who did or didn’t do what, those are the pertinent facts of his dismissal.

                Did other people in the organization know?  I don’t know, though I suspect some did.  But that is immaterial to the issue of his termination.  Were there people on the board that were most concerned about CYA?  I don’t know, though it wouldn’t surprise me if they did.  And again, the answer to that question is immaterial to the issue of his termination.

                Agree or disagree, but I cannot be any clearer than that.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Chris says:

                Bob, the board is not charged with the job of getting to the Truth.  Whatever that is.

                The board is charged with protecting the mission and the assets of the University.  Which they did.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

                Tod, you can’t say that Paterno had an obligation to report and compel an investigation by the university on the one hand and then absolve the BoT of having to honor those obligations. The BoT has at least as much legal or internal obligation to pursue these matters as a football coach does.

                As to your response to me, your assumption that the University’s presentation of evidence to the media – to the media! – is inarguably more sound than Paterno’s begs all the questions that I’m addressing here, and makes my point.


              • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

                Btw, in the above comment, you’ve argued that Paterno’s termination was based on SOPs internal to the University. Can we agree that that’s a much less severe offense than you accused him of in the OP when you said he was terminated for violating the law?Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Chris says:

                Stull, what you say is correct – any incidents of this nature that are reported to the board give them the responsibility of investigating the allegations.  If they were informed at the time Paterno was, then I confess that is news to me – and their defense come lawsuit time will suffer for it.

                But whether or not they knew anything does not change the facts surrounding Paterno and his dismissal.

                I am not speaking in any way shape or form about the media or the board’s communication with them.  It is not relevant to the firing of Paterno.  Again, if what he claims is correct the board had to fire him, if what the admin said was correct the board had to fire him.  Whether the board needs fire others based on those two scenarios is a different story.  Whether they had to fire Paterno isn’t.

                Again, you’re not focusing on Paterno the HR issue, you’re focusing on Paterno the media circus.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Chris says:

                Yes and no.  The procedures are there because of case law.  They exist to protect the assets of the University.  So in theory, I guess that internal procedures are less important than the law, but in this case they are bound.  The procedures, in essence, say “do it this way because it’s what we’re legally obligated to do.”Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

                But whether or not they knew anything does not change the facts surrounding Paterno and his dismissal.

                But Tod, that’s precisely my point. We don’t know the facts surrounding his dismissal. At a minimum, at least arguably, we have an institutional structure that terminated the contract of a coach for allegations of sexual misconduct back in ’99, on the supposition that they could cover it up. So the evidence is already in that this institutional apparatus will, and most likely has, cover-up very serious allegations to maintain the University’s public image. So when you cite Paterno’s firing, on whatever pretext, as evidence that they’re right and he’s wrong, I think you’re falling for the oldest con in the book. Why you think that they’re telling the truth now is a mystery to me.

                And that isn’t to say you’re wrong. It’s just that I haven’t seen any evidence yet, short of legal adjudication, which will decide this one way or the other. So I find your reliance on University testimony to be misguided at this point, since the University – by my lights – has demonstrated that not only are they dishonest, but that they have a vested interest in placing the blame on individuals acting outside of the law.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Chris says:

                As I recall, Rtod does this kind of thing for a living. From previous posts I had assumed he was an attorney, but instead I think he advises corporations (and schools presumably) on how to avoid fines and lawsuits for sexual harassment and other crimes. There are procedures in place, those procedures need to be followed. Typically they aren’t and so the CYA methods begin. Paterno was one of likely /many/ sacrificial lambs who had to be slaughtered to protect the big pig university. Or at least that’s my take on things.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Chris says:

                I’m going to try this one other way, and then maybe we just have to agree to disagree.

                When I was in school I tended bar.  One night the last bartender on shift cashed out after we all had left to hang out at an after-hours joint.  He put the $ in the deposit pouch, and was supposed to go to the bank right after he locked up.  He didn’t; instead he came to meet us, throwing the pouch in his backpack.  He had a lot to drink and forgot about the money, and didn’t remember until the next afternoon when the bank called his boss to say there had been no deposit.

                Now, the guy swore up and down that when he was getting his wallet out of his backpack the previous night, his supervisor had seen the pouch.  He said his supervisor must have stolen it.  The supervisor told everybody he was sure that the bartender did take it home and was keeping the money.  Another guy with us was sure that it was someone else from the bar that had swiped it.  All the employees at the bar took sides with these various theories, and when the bartender was terminated a lot of people said it was unfair, when it was still undetermined whether or not the bartender or his supervisor (or maybe someone else) had taken it.

                Who knew the truth about where the money had gone?  No idea, and my bet is to this day only the person who took it really knows.  But the bartender was fired.  He wan’t fired because he stole the money.  He was fired because he was supposed to go straight to the bank and deposit the money, and not doing so was a fireable offense.  Even if the supervisor had come forward and confessed that he had stolen the money at the bar, they would have still fired the bartender.

                Either Paterno is telling the truth, in which case he casually mentioned it to someone else, but never fallowed up – even though he was aware nothing was really ever done – and never documented anything.  If this is the case, he committed a fireable offense.  Or, maybe the admin he reported to is telling the truth, and Paterno never told anybody anything because he didn’t think it was a believable enough story to report.  If this is the case, he committed a fireable offense.

                Whichever party is really telling the truth about what Paterno did or didn’t do matters a great deal in almost every question that follows in this scandal I can think of save one.  And that question is, should he have been fired.

                There is no way the University wants to step in from of a jury, and have either of those stories told, and then report that they felt they should make an exception of standard termination policy for JoPa.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:


                Paterno was one of likely /many/ sacrificial lambs who had to be slaughtered to protect the big pig university. Or at least that’s my take on things.

                That’s actually closer to my take on it that RTod’s.


              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                Bob, Bob, Bob, your sudden obsession with the legal issues over and above the moral ones is… incongruous. I’m having trouble wrapping my head around it. It feels like a gotcha, but I’m trying not to assume it is one.

                Let’s look at what we know. We know that Paterno knew of an investigation several years before McQueary witnessed anything. We know that when McQueary witnessed something, he told Paterno about it, though precisely what he told Paterno is in question. We know that when Paterno heard something, he told his immediate superior, though what he told him is in question (Paterno says one thing, his immediate superior another). But we also know this: Paterno essentially forced Sandusky to resign at the height of his career. Why? That it occurred at the same time as the investigation is a strange coincidence, eh? We know that a trusted employee told Paterno a few years later that he had witnessed something inappropriate (McQueary says he was explicit about exactly what it was, Paterno says he wasn’t) in a football team facility. A few years later, Sandusky was still showing up to Penn State functions, having not been investigated by the police (something Paterno was notified of before, and surely would have been notified of again), and showing up with children, and Paterno knew this. Yet he said and did nothing.

                You may want to focus on whether he met his legal responsibility. I don’t care, really. He didn’t meet his ethical one, and to me, that’s all that matters. If Sandusky turns out to be innocent, the consequences of his inethical behavior won’t be so bad, but I never took you for a consequentialist. If Sandusky turns out to be guilty, then Paterno’s behavior, along with that of several other Penn State officials, and even McQueary (who also watched Sandusky show up with children years later), will be indirectly responsible for some of the harm he’s done to his victims.Report

          • Mark Thompson in reply to Chris says:

            In short, this is his legacy, and for those who think that’s a shame, cry me a river.

            It seems to me that his legacy is how he is collectively remembered in aggregate, not what any one or more of us may think his legacy should be.  It may well turn out that his legacy is defined by this and nothing else, though I’m skeptical.  Still, if that’s what happens, so be it. At this point, though, it’s way too early to say anything more than that this is certainly part of his legacy, and a part that can’t be just shunted aside.Report

            • Chris in reply to Mark Thompson says:

              To be honest, I figure in 50 years no one won’t care about the Sandusky incident. How many people know that Adolf Rupp was a racist ass? How many people know that he was a great basketball coach? How many people care about the racist ass part?

              But this, I think, has absolutely nothing to do with who Rupp was as a person excluding the racism and the coaching. Paterno’s legacy will have nothing to do with who he was either. He’ll be a winning football coach to most people.Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                *no one will care.Report

              • Mark Thompson in reply to Chris says:

                FWIW, I personally spit in Adolph Rupp’s general direction whenever I hear his name.  I also know that one of the first things that comes to mind when a lot of people hear Rupp’s name these days is the Texas Western Championship game.  Along those same lines, it’s generally not possible to discuss Ty Cobb for more than a few seconds without throwing in a few choice words about how he was a racist asshole.

                By contrast, it’s difficult to discuss Dean Smith without extensive reference to his work fighting against segregation.Report

              • “By contrast, it’s difficult to discuss Dean Smith without extensive reference to his work fighting against segregation.”

                Go ‘Heels!Report

      • Sam in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        Mark – here is the way to make your decision about what you’ll remember about Paterno: what if one of those victims was your own child? Would the donations, the wins, the athletes, or any of the rest of it outweigh what he intentionally overlooked for at least 10-15 years and potentially longer?Report

  8. BlaiseP says:

    College sports, especially football, is a corrupt farce.   JoePa followed that old Flowchart of Failure and got to the decision box labeled “Does anyone know?” and routed to No.   The outcome from that choice was “No Problem” and that’s exactly the same thing which has happened ten thousand times in NCAA and conference ball.   And don’t get me started on all the booster-funded corruption in the recruitment process.

    The whole college sports industry is nothing but a bad joke, a method to exploit a bunch of big fast and often highly intelligent players.   The players don’t get paid but the coach gets paid ten times more than the college president or any of the faculty.   What’s wrong with this picture?Report

  9. Kyle Cupp says:

    I strive in my daily life to ignore anything Michael Novak says.Report

  10. BSK says:

    I do think that Joe and the others fired were scapegoated in the sense that the Board of Trustees were looking to protect themselves and their brand.  In their primary statement about the firing, they used the phrase “…best interests of the University…”.  I was appalled.  Even if firing Joe was in the absolute worst interests of the university, and would have led to 10 years of winless seasons and billions of dollars lost, firing him was the right decision because what he did was morally and legally repugnant.

    The BoT did not seem interested in doing right, but in engaging in some hardcore CYA.  Reports I’ve read say that they were made aware of this all mess as early as last year, if not earlier, and only acted when the story broke publicly.

    All that being said, Joe got what he deserved in his firing and whatever other legal mechanisms would have been pursued had he not passed.  Please do not misconstrue this to say that Joe got what he deserved by dying of cancer.Report

    • Kim in reply to BSK says:

      kindly bear in mind that at least one of the BoT had a kid coached by Paterno. So, let’s just say that he at least had some skin in the game of “no abusing the kids!”Report

      • BSK in reply to Kim says:

        I beg to differ.  Players, as far as we know, were not abused.  And Paterno did not abuse.

        The BoT is not better than Joe.  And to act as if firing him when they did gives them a moral highground is absurd.Report

        • Kim in reply to BSK says:

          … in this case.

          … you do realize there are others, surely?

          (and I don’t mean to give the BoT the moral high ground, simply to imply that these people aren’t being lofty busybodies… (panicky, no doubt, is true!))Report

          • BSK in reply to Kim says:


            We have no reason to suspect that players were being abused at Penn State.  Let’s try to stick to the realm of facts and avoid the world of conjecture.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to BSK says:

              Let me tell you a story.   The US Army trained at a great big area in Germany called Grafenwoehr.   These were the days before GPS, people were expected to read maps.

              A main battle tank got lost.   Like I said, a really big area.   As people often do when they get lost, the tank started going in a large circle.   We could hear the tank trying to find itself, the battalion commander was all over it.    We could hear the yelling going on in the lost tank.

              After several hours of this, the tank went silent.   The crew subdued the tank commander and trussed him up.   The tank did what everyone’s supposed to do when they get lost, start going in a straight line until they hit a road.   From there, they high-tailed it into the heart of the cantonment, pulled up in front of the MP’s shack and turned themselves in.   Everyone involved was transferred to the brig just to keep him quiet, the whole thing was hushed up, the crew sworn to secrecy and that lieutenant was immediately transferred out of the unit.

              I wouldn’t have known about this at all until the end of that tour, when I didn’t have enough time left in that hitch to go back to the field.   They put me on the radios back at battalion HQ.   The sergeant major left the safe open and I pulled that incident out and read it while everyone else was out at lunch.

              Covering shit up is second nature for most people and it’s usually policy everywhere else.   As an NCO, I was taught to keep the fart in the sack, deal with a problem at the lowest level possible, for shit rolls uphill as well as down.   JoePa had more problems than just this kiddie diddler.   He’d outraged plenty of people back in 2006 when he was joking around about sexual assault.   His players were constantly in trouble with the law.

              In short, JoePa was a world-class asshole to whom victory mattered more than anything else in life.Report

            • Kim in reply to BSK says:


              I don’t do conjecture. Certain facts are more widely known than some people figure, that’s all.Report

  11. Stillwater says:

    Why he was fired is a really, really important lesson.  In fact, it’s the most important lesson coming out of this sad tragedy, if only because “don’t molest kids” isn’t really a lesson for which most of us need to be reminded. … For whatever reason he chose not to perform or request a formal investigation.  But – and this is the important part – performing a formal investigation is what he was legally required to do.

    Tod, I’m a little uncertain about this claim. Could you provide a link which to the law you’re basing this judgment on? The particular issue I’m curious about is the distinction between being legally obligated to perform an investigation vs. a legal obligation to report the incident to those who have the authority to perform an investigation. As an example of what I mean, let’s say I’m a janitor at Penn State and see Sandusky engaging in inappropriate behavior with a minor. If so, is it my legal obligation to call for an investigation, even tho I’m not employed in an administrative role at the University and by definition cannot either perform or call for an investigation? Or is it only my legal obligation to inform others who are in a position to do so?Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

      Also, as I recall, that’s not why he was fired. The University did not mention his ‘failing to perform an investigation’ as a reason for dismissing him.

      But I could be wrong about that.Report

      • I’m guessing that there would have been pretty strong legal incentives for the BoT to avoid stating that officially.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Mark Thompson says:

          Sure. Because they, and the AD, are the ones with the clear authority and obligation to perform an investigation.

          But you’re a lawyer, Mark. Maybe you can clear this up for me. It seems to me the relevant law here – the one Tod’s basing his argument on – wouldn’t require just anyone to perform an investigation when evidence of sexual abuse of minors is presented, but only those with the authority and power to actually investigate.

          Maybe head-football coaches actually do have the authority and power to call for investigations. But for some reason, this strikes me as improbable.Report

          • FWIW, I have no idea whether this was actually a reason why he was fired – this specific issue is not an area of law where I’ve got any real background or more than a limited understanding.  I was just getting at the notion that, if it was a reason he was fired, there would be a very strong disincentive to acknowledging that publicly, regardless of whether he had an obligation to do more.

            They knew multiple, very large, lawsuits against the university were guaranteed here, and they are going to need to have as many avenues of defense available to them as possible.  Moreover, the acts of every single party involved here, to the extent they were operating in their official capacities* as employees of PSU, are attributable to the university.  Each time the university publicly acknowledges something that could be construed as legal wrongdoing by one of those parties acting in their official capacities, they foreclose a potential defense because that legal wrongdoing is going to be attributable to the university.  Citing a failure to investigate publicly would probably foreclose several theoretically possible defenses; for instance, it’s not out of the question that the university would want to argue that all of the acts or failures to act by university employees occurred outside the scope of their employment, in their personal capacities, and thus are not attributable to the university.

            *By “official capacity,” I’m not saying that they were necessarily university “officials,” just that they were acting or not acting in a manner attributable to the university.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Stillwater says:

        No, you’re right.  He was fired for the same reason -the only reason – anyone at that level of responsibility and pay is fired who works for a major organization whose managers answer to a public board: the board determined it was in the best interests of the organization. Period. End of story.  Million-dollar employment contracts for executives in that context are pretty much uniformly like that. (The lawyers among us can shoot that down if it’s mistaken.)  The lesson to be drawn from the dismissal is precisely that, nothing more, nothing less: don’t allow the part of the organization you run to harm the organization in a serious way, and especially don’t allow its good public name to be tarnished, if it has one it values highly.

        What Novak is hilariously wrong about is the notion that it was the board’s responsibility to see that an investigation was conducted.  They made the larger decisions about who would be in the positions whose responsibility that was, and they have taken similar accountability actions in the cases of those people/positions.  The board is acting in the only way it can in this matter.  Ultimately, someone has to be finally responsible for these decisions, and it is for just cases like this where the rot spreads all the way to the top of the organization proper that you have final authority rest with a board of people who are not functional cogs in the organization itself, but who act as interested custodians of its well-being from a position of official independence from it.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

          …the board’s responsibility in the first instance, that is.  Once the failure became apparent, it bacame their responsibility to ee that the investiation was carried out… by appointing a new slate of managers tasked with carrying it out, and seeing that they do.  Novak’s sugestion was that it was the board’s equally with the management that was in place who was charged with carrying out the investigation in the first instance… i.e. that it was “their failure,” “their” being the people whose decision it was to terminate Paterno (who could have forestalled his termination with anything short of the defiant stance he took regarding intending to stay on until the end of the season).

          …The above is also not to argue that it wasn’t indeed, as Tod explains below, Paterno’s responsibility, organizationally if not legally, jointly with the AD and university president, to see that the investigation was carried out.  But his termination in no way needed to be contingent on a finding that he failed to meet that particular obligation.Report

        • Tod Kelly in reply to Michael Drew says:

          While I agree with almost all of this, MD, one minor quibble – it is the board’s responsibility to make sure that an investigation occurred if they are made aware of a transgression.  For them not to do so not only leaves the organization open to lawsuits, it leaves them personally open to a Directors & Officers claim.Report

          • Michael Drew in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            But in this case, they were made aware of the transgressions and the failure to investigate them (cover-up) at the same time, making the move to remove the upper echelon of management and, eventually, Paterno, and to install acting officers charged with investigation, concomitant with their discharging of their duty to investigate, no?  Or are some of the board members thought to have had wind of the facts and knowledge that no investigation was taking place before it was determined that there had been the organizational failure to investigate, and did not act on that knowledge?Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

      Still, this actually comes from case law; and so to be clear, we are not talking “jail time” law so much as “get your ass sued off” law.  And the distinction is usually at the supervisory or management level.

      As I wrote about here, case law assumes that you as an organization cannot know the quality of the person you hire – assuming that you performed your due diligence in the hiring process.  I don’t know how long ago Sandusky was hired, but it’s a good bet that even if it was a long time ago they did reference checks.  If it was just within the past couple of decades they would have had to have down a criminal background check.  (This last is mandated by law for schools in most states; it is always a requirement of the liability insurance carrier.)

      What the organization is held responsible for are essentially two things:

      1. Did they make all employees aware of their rights, including the right to come to management with a complaint/testimony of wrongdoing without being punished for doing so.  (This is done in different ways at different jobs, but is universally done with employee handbooks.  If you review your own you will see this section.)

      2. When notified, did the supervisor or manager perform an appropriate investigation?  (If you’re curious, in order for it to be proper that investigation has to have four steps: Initial investigation, conclusion on the merit of the complaint, action(s) taken, and follow up to make sure that the actions were effective.)

      In the case of Penn State, management (Paterno) was made aware of a complaint, and no formal investigation was performed.

      If, in the theoretical case of a janitor being made aware of something and not reporting it, case law will look to see instead if the organization made that janitor aware (usually at point of hire) that it was company policy to inform management of illegal/improper activity, and that management performed due diligence at each step of the hiring and review of all employees involved.

      In the case of the board at Penn State, it appears that this Fall they were made aware of transgressions – both in the form of child abuse, but also in the form of management neglect of a complaint.  It appears they investigated, found merit, and terminated Paterno.  It may well turn out down the road that the board knew about everything long before, and – if this is the case – they will pay dearly for that in the subsequent judgements.

      Also, to combine this answer to your other comment, you are correct that the University did not spell out in press releases why they fired Paterno.  Organizations never do that.  They do not want to leave themselves liable for wrongful termination suits, and – in this case – do not want to give ammunition to the plaintiffs that are surely lining up.


      • Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        But if what you say is right, and I’m understanding it correctly, the conclusion you draw about why Paterno was fired doesn’t follow. It could have been the case – at least your above comments suggest as much – that paterno actually did follow all the legal protocols required of him and that the investigation was either buried or not performed by higher ups. So it’s entirely possible the Paterno was not fired for failing to perform an investigation, either in point of fact or as the putative rational provided by the BoT.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Stillwater says:

          See my first comment.Report

        • Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

          My understanding is that Paterno did not perform an investigation, let alone go through the additional steps.  If he made a request for such an investigation, there is no paper/electronic trail to substantiate this claim.

          Still, the best way I can illustrate this process without the emotional volatility is as such:

          Let’s say, theoretically, that everything happened the way it transpired – but shortly after the story broke, it was discovered without a doubt that no abuse had occurred – that everyone who had claimed so came forward and said they had made up the story.

          The board would still have had to have fired Paterno.Report

          • Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            Tod, just for the record, I have no emotional volatility about the issue. I just want to get clear about what you wrote in the OP. And I think what you wrote here (above) confirms MD’s argument that it’s not about a principle or even a law, but rather a CYA measure to mitigate future liability. If that’s what you mean, then it’s not a law you’re referring to in the OP, but pragmatics. I mean, he reported the incident to the AD who said he ‘looked into it’ and found no wrong-doing. So my question is this: what additional steps do you think Paterno was legally obligated to take at that point such that his failure to take them constituted a violation of law (which is what you wrote in the OP)? On the face of it, he seems to have done what was legally (tho arguably not morally) required of him.

            And that’s what I was asking about. 🙂Report

            • Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

              Still, that the board might have had CYA motives is certainly possible – probably even probable.  But make no mistake, taking any other action would have left the assets of the University at risk.  I will guarantee you a million times over that they did what they did on the advice of counsel.

              As to who did and didn’t do what, it is my understanding that this is all in dispute, with various department and university admin people covering their own asses.  But if the board determined that Paterno was informed, and Paterno was unable to provide documentation that the did what was required, then – sorry – he’s the odd man out.  FWIW, as these things go to court and there are periods of discovery, I suspect that other heads will roll as well.

              I’d also encourage you to keep in mind that the Board probably didn’t want to fire Paterno.  There are not paid positions; in fact, generally you have to pay a lot of money to be asked to sit on such a board.  Most of the bennies come in the form of being BMOC (literally, now that I think about it) in the community and among the alumni.  The board surely knew they were going to become pariahs amonst those groups when they pulled the trigger.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Well, I feel sort of bad for harping on this, but what you just wrote contradicts what you wrote in the OP.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Because in the OP you said that he was, as a matter of fact, fired for violating the law. But it hasn’t been been demonstrated that he did fail to act as he was legally required to do. And additionally, you’re now saying that it’s entirely possible that he was fired for entirely pragmatic reasons.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

                You’r reading far more into my response than you should.  Did he perform an investigation?  No.  Did he make a formal request that an investigation be performed, in writing that can be documented?  No.  If he did indeed punt the ball upstairs, did he ever follow up to make sure appropriate actions were taken, or that any kid of investigation was performed?  Either he did and found it hadn’t and let it drop, or he never followed up at all.

                He did not do what he was legally required to do.  Period.

                As to the board, that someone does what they are required to do to legally and that by doing so they are covering their own asses are not mutually exclusive.  In fact they kind of go hand in hand.  But at the end of the day, what was in the hearts of the board are no more knowable – and therefore no more relevant in court – than what was in Paterno’s.


              • Michael Drew in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                This is why the notion of the responsibility of the board being of the same kind to that of the top paid officers of the organization is confused.  They are responsible, but their responsibility is of a different sort.Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Stillwater says:

              It’s more than CYA.  It’s just a straight-forward, “Keeping him on gravely harms the organization right now, today, in a concrete way” determination.

              Beyond that, the board might well also have determined that Paterno did not meet a standard of conduct that was either explicitly laid out for an employee of his rank and compensation, or else they felt was implicitly expected of a leader at his level in the organization.  I would agree that their action was hasty if it was based only on this, since a thorough investigation of that question couldn’t have been performed in the amount of time in question, but it didn’t need to be based only on that, and in light of a determination of what was in the best interest of the organization, a strong sense that that was the case was not necessarily not a major consideration in the final decision to act pursuant to that determination.

              In other words, the board might have determined that, despite finding that removing Paterno would be in the best interest of Penn State, had they had a strong sense that he was innocent of wrongdoing and had comported himself to their utmost expectations, or even merely not grossly failed to meet same, they might out of fairness and deference to his stature on campus delayed or refrained from removing him. But they didn’t.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        “In the case of Penn State, management (Paterno) was made aware of a complaint, and no formal investigation was performed.”

        So you’ve reviewed the procedures put in place by the Penn State college administration and determined that Paterno was in fact required to perform that formal investigation?  That Paterno was both permitted and legally obligated to do more than kick it up to the next level of authority?


        • Tod Kelly in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Duck, as to the second part of your comment see above.  As to the first part, having these policies isn’t something that you need to review Penn’s employee handbook to determine if they have.  They’re pretty universal for any organization of 100+ employees.

          If it turns out that they don’t have such policies and procedures in place (highly improbable, but I suppose possible), then the University can pretty much kiss it’s endowments goodbye.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            Uh, the organization of which I am a part has considerably more than 100 employees, and the guidance here is “unless you are the CEO and also own 50% of the stock, the proper response to stuff like this is to inform HR and legal, and then support the investigation as appropriate”.

            They *don’t* want cowboys running around all “y’all’s a kiddie raper, GIT OUTTA MAH PLANE!”  And then it turns out that all kinds of employment contracts and employee rights were violated without sufficient due process, and the university gets sued for a few dozen million dollars, AND the guy gets his job back.Report

            • BSK in reply to DensityDuck says:

              There is a difference between “guidance” and “procedure”.  Check your employee handbook… it likely has more explicit, cut-and-dry rules about what procedure is.

              And the PSU situation is not necessarily analogous to other workplaces.  There are mandatory reporting laws and certain professions are designated as mandatory reporters.  I work with children and, as such, am a mandatory reporter.  I would be both civily and criminally liable if I did not report suspicions of abuse.  Now, there is a specific procedure I must follow, which includes alerting specific people in my building who, in turn, go further up the food chain.  I have been fortunate to have never had to have gone through this procedure, so I can’t say exactly what my responsibility and role is after a report is made.

              I don’t know what the rules are in PA regarding mandatory reporting and whether Paterno would have been considered one under their laws.  It is usually pretty cut-and-dry and can’t really be something that is argued after the fact.Report

  12. Robert Cheeks says:

    WTF, am I reading the LoOG? I mean horrific charges have been made against Mr. Sandusky. However, the dude’s not been found guilty of anything, they are merely charges and allegations. No findings of fact or conclusions in law, no jury convictions,

    It used to be you had to have a trial before you hung ’em.

    Hey, a lot of you statist-media lemmings can work for Barry when the gummint starts rounding up Catholics!  Brown shirts, it is said, will be available for his people!Report

  13. Steve S. says:

    Here is my perspective again:  it is entirely unsurprising that operatives in large, inert institutions act this way.  Our challenge as a society is not to argue over Joe Paterno’s legacy but to figure out how to keep large, inert institutions from doing these things.  Firing Paterno may have been the right thing to do, but if it turns out to be the functional equivalent of reassigning an abusive priest — that is, an institution that will remain mostly unchanged “doing something” — then I’m not sure what’s been accomplished.

    By the way, I’m still waiting for the proper legal authorities in Pennsylvania that Paterno should have reported to, who knew of credible allegations against Sandusky for years before arresting him, to adequately explain themselves.  PSU is not the only large, inert institution we’re dealing with here.Report

  14. dhex says:

    if he were not permanently unexisting (nonexistent? un-existed?), i bet paterno would be kicking himself for not dying six months sooner.Report

  15. wardsmith says:

    From the comments section from the Novak piece:

    The two people to whom Paterno relayed McQueary’s report were Athletic Director Tim Curley, and Vice President Gary Schultz – Schultz’ duties were managing all operational (non-academic) University functions including oversight of Police Services, a sworn, uniformed police force with the same standing as any borough or city police department in Pennsylvania. I have not seen anyone from the University or Board of Trustees acknowledge or disavow that SOP when reporting a suspected crime on campus was to involve Gary Schultz. The Board of Trustees (acting through their proxy, the University president) was ultimately responsible for putting people in charge of ‘handling’ a reported crime, and they failed to do that adequately. Gary Schultz was not a uniformed police officer, yet he basically took it upon himself to take a witness’ statement and determine that no crime had occurred – this would be bad enough if it were the only failure of Penn State’s administration, but his decision was subsequently acknowledged and supported by University President Graham Spanier. The official University position that no crime had occurred was relayed back to McQueary and Paterno (not as University policy, rather as a statement of fact) along with the proposed remedy to make sure that no further ‘misunderstandings’ would occur.

    After reading the embellished version of McQueary’s description of events in the Grand Jury presentment, Paterno acknowledged that he wished he had done more. What he did was trust that people in power at a renowned university, as well as the child counselors who worked with Jerry Sandusky on a regular basis at Second Mile, were capable of handling a reported crime and of being able to identify a child molester. Paterno himself said in his final interview that he did not understand the crimes on a fundamental level, and wanted to let people who had experience (Dr. Spanier’s background is in family counseling) handle the investigation – Paterno did not want to wrongfully accuse Sandusky, nor did he want to jeopardize Sandusky’s prosecution if the allegations proved to be true. If we can avoid looking at Paterno’s actions through the prism of the Grand Jury presentment, then what he did was actually the best course of action a person with no police or psychological training could reasonably take – turn the matter over to those who are qualified to deal with it, and then do your best to stay out of their way.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to wardsmith says:

      Cheers, Ward. That’s some good stuff there.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to wardsmith says:

      bubububububb child molessterrrrrrrrrReport

    • Stillwater in reply to wardsmith says:

      Also, Ward, there’s this from Wiki:

      Joe Paterno was not accused of legal wrongdoing by the grand jury, since he fulfilled his obligation to report the incident to his immediate supervisor, Curley, and he also reported it to Gary Schultz, who oversaw the campus police at the time.[13] However, he was harshly criticized for not reporting the incident to police, or at least seeing to it that it was reported.[42] Several advocates for sexual abuse victims have called for charges to be brought against him for not contacting the police himself,[43] despite the fact that he complied with the law by informing his superiors of the incident.Report

      • wardsmith in reply to Stillwater says:

        So even though by definition Schultz WAS the police, JoePa was… somehow in the wrong for not reporting it to the police? Yes, I can see how that works, in topsy turvy land. Joe was too worried about X’s and O’s, he should have been focused on C’s Y’s and A’s.Report

        • Robert Cheeks in reply to wardsmith says:

          The whole thing smells of a political lynching, and I don’t care for the mob mentality, so quick to abandon the rule of law, just as long as it suits their preconceived biases and notions.Report

  16. Robert Cheeks says:



  17. Gorgias says:

    And Haidt keeps trying to convince me that I’m missing out on a fully human moral experience because I have loyalty and respect for authority tuned way down.  If those moral calibrations lead to pieces like the one you’ve so expertly eviscerated, I think I’m better off without them.Report