A MONSTER IN THE PRIDE?
by Andy Weddington
Friday, 18 November 2011
"Disappointment is a sort of bankruptcy - the bankruptcy of a soul that expends too much in hope and expectation." Eric Hoffer
Pride--Nittany Lion, that is--pride? It's blemished these days for the chaos surrounding an alleged monster who stalked Happy Valley.
Queries have rolled in wondering about comment on the child sexual abuse mess surrounding Penn State University's (Penn State) football program and the university. First inclination was no. But after reading sworn testimony in the Thirty-Third Statewide Investigating Grand Jury report that made findings of fact and recommendations of charges, I changed my mind.
Where to begin?
Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. So no one will be tried or sentenced in this forum.
However, sworn testimony in the Grand Jury report is damning. And the accused's admissions (a few days ago during an interview) of showering with boys and putting his hand on their legs, "horsing around"--as he described it while denying sexual overtones or attraction, is, if nothing else, taboo behavior in our culture. So there's plenty prime for comment.
There's no need to recap particulars. All of it, the graphic bad and ugly, is readily available on the Internet. And that, though not so much for Penn State, is good.
Analysis? No need.
Opinion? Plenty. And not enough time to offer it all.
Provided the investigative work is valid, the sworn testimony truthful, and the findings factual then whatever the explanations, whatever the rationalizations, whatever the denials, whatever the defenses, sick is the only word that keeps coming to mind. Adults, especially adults in positions of leadership, have a moral obligation--an ethical duty--to aggressively protect children. Sandusky, charged a predator and rapist of young boys, stands alone for his alleged criminal behavior.
Gerald "Jerry" Sandusky, once a Penn State football player, longtime football coach at his alma mater, and founder of a charity helping young boys, facing more than three dozen charges of sexually abusing children (young boys) for over a decade and a half, is a sick man.
Others (i.e., Joe Paterno, head football coach; Athletic Director; Vice President for Finance and Business; University President; etc.) who did not report what they knew to police, by default, sick accomplices. At least two of them committed perjury about their knowledge of the abuse.
Students (and anyone else), protesting and rioting upon Coach Paterno's immediate dismissal, are sick.
Anyone who had direct or indirect knowledge of what Jerry Sandusky did, and was doing, and did not report it to authority (i.e. police), outside the Penn State domain, is sick. (Note: A coach claiming to have witnessed a lewd act says he informed police. Ongoing.)
Then what of the complicit? Why? To protect self, institutional reputation(s) and, more importantly, an enormous cash flow (tens and tens of millions), at the expense of people, children, deemed expendable if not disposable. Unconscionable.
How did they live with themselves? How did they sleep at night?
Penn State's website (http://www.psu.edu/) has a page dedicated to "Principles." There are four. Two pertain to academics. Here are the other two...
"I will respect the dignity of all individuals within the Penn State community.
The University is committed to creating and maintaining an educational environment that respects the right of all individuals to participate fully in the community. Actions motivated by hate, prejudice, or intolerance violate this principle. I will not engage in any behaviors that compromise or demean the dignity of individuals or groups, including intimidation, stalking, harassment, discrimination, taunting, ridiculing, insulting, or acts of violence. I will demonstrate respect for others by striving to learn from differences between people, ideas, and opinions and by avoiding behaviors that inhibit the ability of other community members to feel safe or welcome as they pursue their academic goals.
I will demonstrate social and personal responsibility.
The University is a community that promotes learning; any behaviors that are inconsistent with that goal are unacceptable. Irresponsible behaviors, including alcohol or drug abuse and the use of violence against people or property, undermine the educational climate by threatening the physical and mental health of members of the community. I will exercise personal responsibility for my actions and I will make sure that my actions do not interfere with the academic and social environment of the University. I will maintain a high standard of behavior by adhering to the Code of Conduct and respecting the rights of others."
Charged to the student body, does it not follow adherence to the same principles is expected from all faculty and staff--including football coaches and administrative leadership? Rhetorical. Certainly! The premise is leadership--by example.
Moreover, what about ideas like right vs wrong; law; witnessing a heinous crime and reporting it--over and over, if necessary, until someone listens; knowing of heinous crimes being committed and reporting them--over and over, if necessary, until someone listens; and protecting the innocent and defenseless? And that's just for starters.
Penn State's principles are wordy--whatever substance lost in lack of clarity.
In contrast, U. S. Marines (and Sailors) are guided by a set of Core Values: Honor. Courage. Commitment. Three hard-hitting words that set an overarching standard for personal behavior for all, rank notwithstanding, to do what is right. Simple. Substantive. Clear. There's no arguing their meaning nor what is expected.
That said, Marines, too, misbehave--reprehensibly. I've seen it; investigated and reported it; saw the institution (at high levels) close ranks and some meddle with due process to protect--individuals and the Corps; and then saw higher level internal and external checks and balances, emplaced for the sole purpose of protecting the sanctity of the institution, fail. Not exactly but similar to what happened at Penn State.
What's alleged to have happened at Penn State, what I saw in the Marines, and what nonsense, to any degree, that goes on in any human outfit, surprising? No. Mankind, hard-wired to do so, errs and fails--innocently and intentionally.
But how indescribably disappointing, and troubling, when respected institutions (the people a given) resort to shady i-dotting and t-crossing--cursory reviews, ass-covering form letters, and rubber stamps--to bury problems. But the file cabinet drawer nor hole is ever deep enough. The odor stays. And sooner or later justice catches a whiff and starts digging. As was the case with Jerry Sandusky--apparently a 'state secret' for a couple of years.
There are no winners.
But possibly losers aplenty.
At Penn State, foremost the children--their innocence, dignity, and trust destroyed. Time will tell what else. And, include anyone "led"--in classroom or on gridiron--by the sick men. Pause to wonder what they, students and student athletes--alumni, are thinking. That's not so difficult to imagine.
As to the Marine Corps, Marines (and Sailors), "led" by the misbehaving and their abettors, lose. And on a grander scale, there's the inestimable damage the wrong example by seniors, passed from generation to generation, leaves on impressionable juniors and the future of the institution. Time will tell that, too.
A cold hard fact of life is evil exists. Testimony and admission indicates the unimaginable was reality, for a long time, at Penn State. The tragedy is all the harm that can never be undone. Managed, maybe. Most of the time good eventually prevails yet hurt lingers.
If the unthinkable happened at Penn State, whether substantiated in court or not, linger hurt will, likely for life, for a group of young men robbed of their childhood.
May justice prevail and if found guilty let punishment befit the crimes. We'll see.
And in closing...
Our Corps motto, Semper Fidelis (always faithful), a reinforcing complement to our values.
It's oh so easy to sour and overlook all the good that far outweighs the bad in all things human. It's just damn unfortunate a tiny drop of evil--a pollutant--is disproportionate to the enormous volume of good it poisons. But it's the words of a now deceased general, a commandant, gifted to me three decades ago that continue to proffer hope and courage under the direst of circumstances: "Keep the faith!"
Pride will one day return to the Nittany Lion pride but it will never be the same.
On another note...
The problems at Penn State, football program to athletics department to administration, are symptomatic of out-of-control college athletics. Sadly, they're not so uncommon. At any given campus, from an emphasis on winning to players that masquerade as students to exorbitantly compensated coaches to schools that rake in millions and millions of dollars, a model in place for way too long, the system is broken. But that's not news. What to do? Is the status quo an inevitable by-product of capitalism? No question. Is it--the model--too big to fail? No. But whom will have the courage to fix it? For starters, it'll take nothing short of a huge collective of influential university presidents--from all conferences coast to coast. Don't hold your breath. Then again Congress doesn't have anything else to do--perhaps they'll schedule hearings. Good grief.
1. Jerry Sandusky and at least one other Penn State official, to this day, draw comfortable pensions from the University.
2. If Penn State has a motto it was not to be found. Maybe they should consider adopting one. A few more words won't prevent evil but just might help fend it off. It can't hurt. And they should definitely rethink principles--simplify.
3. There is no geographic area called "Happy Valley." It's a slang term, not embraced by Penn State, journalists have used for a long time. The association with Penn State understood. It may be a while before writers feel comfortable using the term. Come to think of it, maybe never.
4. Ironically, Penn State has a Naval ROTC unit. The Core Values are part of the midshipmen's education and training. I doubt any of them were protesting and rioting in support of Coach Paterno. Disappointing if they were, and a sign remedial training required--as better thinking than that necessary to lead Marines and Sailors.
5. Grand Jury report: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/11/06/sports/ncaafootball/20111106-pennstate-document.html
6. Thank you, KK.