10th 2011
Brief thoughts on Penn State

Posted under: American history, childhood, Gender, students, unhappy endings

I don’t have any special knowledge of what’s going on there–to be clear, I went to Penn by the way, which is in Philadelphia and on the entirely other end of the state of Pennsylvania.  I’ve never been within 60 miles of State College, to my knowledge.  (Like most Penn grads, it rankles me to be associated with Penn State.)  But readers have written to ask when I’ll comment on the accused child rapist who was protected by the football program there, so here goes:

  1. I’ve seen a lot of commentary to the effect that “institutions do a poor job of policing themselves.”   That may be a part of the problem, however, it seems clear to me that this is more of a gender problem than anything.  The facts of the case so far show that men are reluctant in the extreme to interfere with the sexual prerogatives of other men, even when their sexual behavior is criminal.  Furthermore, this is not just a comment on the institutional power of the football program at Penn State–all of the university administrators accused of crimes and/or who lost their jobs yesterday are all men.  I would expect that a female AD and/or a woman vice president or president of the university would have acted swiftly on eyewitness accounts of child rape and would have called law enforcement, not because women are more virtuous or braver than men, but simply because women who make it into positions of authority tend to be more willing to blow the whistle than their male peers. 
  2. Even the supposedly cleanest, best-run sports programs may be nests of crime and corruption, so once again I point out that running free farm clubs for the NFL and the NBA should never be seen as central to the mission of a university, and in fact should be viewed as a heath and safety risk to the university and to the surrounding community.
  3. Penn State students:  keepin’ it classy!  I wonder what victims of rape and sexual assault there are thinking right now with their classmates rioting in protest of “JoePa”‘s dismissal?  a) alienation, b) fear, c) loathing, d) disgust, or e) all of the above?
  4. What the heck is a “Nittany Lion,” anyway? 

Busy day for me–your turn now.  Enlighten me with your informed commentary below.


69 Responses to “Brief thoughts on Penn State”

  1. ej on 10 Nov 2011 at 8:16 am #

    My issue is with the tendency of Universities post-scandals to clean house (everyone involved or some how culpable resigns or is fired) and then assume that the problem is resolved. But nothing changes in terms of the culture. If he weren’t already on the verge of retirement, Paterno would spend a year or so out of the spotlight, and then would be hired by someone else, presumably making even more money.

    Long live the patriarchy!

  2. bc on 10 Nov 2011 at 8:20 am #

    As to number 3, we don’t have to wonder. The sister of one of the victims is the students’ classmate:


  3. clio's disciple on 10 Nov 2011 at 8:27 am #

    Some of what I’ve been reading suggests that Paterno would likely have retired after this season anyway. I’d also note that this is the same university and athletic administration that protected its homophobic women’s basketball coach, Rene Portland, for years before she resigned (was pushed out) in 2007.

    I did look up “Nittany Lions.” Apparently there’s a Mount Nittany in the area, and the mascot is named after the local mountain lions. I’ve certainly heard of worse mascots.

  4. Teaspoon on 10 Nov 2011 at 8:46 am #

    A sports reporter was complaining last night that now, Paterno’s name will only ever bring first to mind “a scandal” instead of some number of wins over his career. Jerk didn’t even have the decency to call it by name, instead erasing the kids that were hurt because Paterno didn’t do the right thing the first time he found out about it.

    My response is boo-fucking-hoo. That’s what should happen if you cover up child rape and sexual abuse. It should be the first thing people think when they hear your name, and it should be the last thing said at your funeral. Maybe if it was, it would become a lot less acceptable to cover it up, and more kids would be kept safe from predators.

  5. E. Goldman on 10 Nov 2011 at 8:47 am #

    I have no insight to add to this discussion at the moment because I think smarter people have already articulated just how awful this situation, and especially the reactions to every part of it, is. But this newest wave of awful, namely the student reaction to Paterno’s dismissal, has me reeling; all I can think of is how I would feel as a professor in this situation, if my students were behaving in this way. I wonder what I would do/say in response, and also how this would affect my relationship to them more generally. That campus is a scary place for people who care about justice right now. How could I teach about inequality in a space where my students cared more about a beloved coach than the rape of children?

  6. Historiann on 10 Nov 2011 at 9:02 am #

    I’ve written about student partying-turned-rioting here before, and even in response to a This American Life episode that was about town-gown relations in State College, PA. I don’t think there’s any excuse for it. However, when I’ve tried to discuss it with (overwhelmingly white) college students, it’s clear that their solipsicism prevents them from seeing beyond their own perspective. They fully believe they’re justified in rioting, and 1) anyone who lives near a college or university should know this in advance and just deal with the property damage, home invasions, and pee and barf everywhere, and 2) it’s different than when people in black or brown neighborhoods riot because they’re college students and are therefore “future productive citizens,” so police and the community should just back off.

    bc, thanks for the link to the victim’s sister’s story.

  7. Clio Bluestocking on 10 Nov 2011 at 9:55 am #

    I thought #3, too, when I saw the rioting. What is wrong with people?

  8. truffula on 10 Nov 2011 at 10:08 am #

    all I can think of is how I would feel as a professor in this situation

    Well, I think what I have to do is confront it. I’m not at Penn State but I’m sure going to talk about this with my first-year class next week.

    I have some experience with the chain of command issues involved here. I think that how people respond depends importantly on how they view their role in the university structure. In my limited experience, women are more likely to understand what has happened as a crime but as has been discussed here before, it takes some courage to stand up against the good ol’ boys. And I have seen women who clearly understood themselves to be one of those boys–one the tough guys working hir way up the acadecorporate ladder–prioritize what is “good” for the university above what is “good” for the student. Couple that attitude with the twin desires to not be involved in anything messy and to direct the blame elsewhere, and you end up, I think, exactly where Penn State is now.

    There are some truly bad actors here–the coach, the president, whatever university office (affirmative action, presumably) decided to treat this as an internal issue rather than calling the police–but imho, everybody who knew what had been reported and managed to pass the responsibility on to somewhere else is complicit.

    I’d like to imagine they all feel as horrible as they are but this is likely not the case (Joe Paterno’s statements are particularly barf-inducing on this front). I have seen how personal narratives about involvement in such matters change over time. It is not very hard to come to see yourself as having done the right thing or for having been removed from the loop and thus from responsibility, even if at the time you were reprimanded for not having done the right thing.

  9. Historiann on 10 Nov 2011 at 10:12 am #

    I think I’ll talk to my students this morning in my History of Sexuality class about this. Great points, truffula.

  10. cgeye on 10 Nov 2011 at 10:32 am #

    I know, I’ve read the Corrente posts on how Violence Solves Nothing.. but ain’t it peculiar that our general culture never expects *victims* rioting where their perpetrators are given free reign, lucrative contracts and hush money, *and* the love of the damaged youth who worship the ground upon which these predators walk? Why is that those who love peace and justice more than sports wins always have to speak low, be meek and not offend anyone who could be offended?

    And, to be blunt, it’s a rare day when a university’s leaders actually listen to their risk management consultants and, um, TAKE DECISIVE ACTION? Even if not one jot or tittle of the culture changes, it’s still so rare when a perfunctory attempt at house cleaning is made….

  11. Anonymous on 10 Nov 2011 at 10:43 am #

    Maybe female university presidents would act more swiftly on child rape — I hope so. But we’ve seen that they can be very protective of their football programs even in the face of corruption (in Miami, for example).

  12. fannie on 10 Nov 2011 at 10:51 am #

    “I’ve seen a lot of commentary to the effect that ‘institutions do a poor job of policing themselves.’ That may be a part of the problem, however, it seems clear to me that this is more of a gender problem than anything. The facts of the case so far show that men are reluctant in the extreme to interfere with the sexual prerogatives of other men, even when their sexual behavior is criminal.”

    Thanks for stating this. People have already drawn comparisons to the Catholic Church scandals with the whole “institutions do a poor job of policing themselves,” but I haven’t seen too many people note that both football and the Catholic Church are male-dominated institutions that take male supremacy as givens.

    It’s almost like there’s some sort of unwritten rule, especially in the mainstream media, about Not Making This A Gender Issue.

  13. another anonymous on 10 Nov 2011 at 10:59 am #

    I haven’t read the indictment, but my understanding is that most (all?) of the victims were black boys. I do wonder if something about that made it easier for these folks not to take immediate action. Something about the kids being more like “others” to the white, privileged coaching staff.

    Which is to say–yes, there are gender politics at play. Are there also racial politics? Clearly these are kids who society might generally think of as disposable.

    I understand sorta, but not really, why the grad assistant / former QB / now coach didn’t do anything at the time, like call the cops. Would we all behave the same way? Was he too scared of his former coach?

  14. Susan on 10 Nov 2011 at 11:18 am #

    What strikes me about the students rioting is that somehow even kids who had no contact with Paterno thought he was “theirs”. I gather the admin had tried to fire Paterno some years ago, but because he was “legendary” he held on. But when people start standing for the institution (which to some extent they always do) you are incredibly dependent on their character and behavior.

    And the university was terribly badly served in communications!

  15. Bill Harshaw on 10 Nov 2011 at 11:35 am #

    Since it’s been decades since I was on campus, I’ve many questions: what is the chain of responsibility in cases like this? If a professor observes a crime, like McGreavy, should he call the cops immediately? Should he report it to his superior in the college’s chain of command? Both? Suppose he observes something which might or might not be criminal? What’s the role of the college’s code of conduct in this–should it only cover conduct which is not arguably illegal? Is that what they do?

  16. shaz on 10 Nov 2011 at 11:58 am #

    Check out the clear statements that sum it all up here:

    Depressing bottom line: when it comes to sexual power, it’s who you are, not what you do. If you are the right kind of person, most people will go to elaborate lengths to ignore acts that don’t fit with how they think that kind of person behaves.

    I’m beyond disgusted.

  17. Historiann on 10 Nov 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    Thanks for that link, shaz. It pretty much sums it all up!

    Bill, I’d say that anyone who sees a crime in progress should report the crime to the police, and then follow up on any internal reporting. Deference to procedure and processs seems misplaced to me, as indeed it appears to have been in the Penn State case.

  18. Comrade PhysioProf on 10 Nov 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    Those who care about Penn State as an institution should be relieved that the trustees shitcanned both the president and Paterno. And BTW, lest anyone think that the trustees should have moved even faster, from the unsealing of the indictment on Saturday to the time of the shitcanning is *extraordinarily* rapid action by any university board of trustees.

  19. Stephanie Camp on 10 Nov 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    Thanks for all the links, folks. They’re all sickening amazing.

  20. Dr. Koshary on 10 Nov 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    “Loathing and disgust” pretty much sums up my reactions, maybe even more so toward the rioting students than toward the university hierarchy that acted in a depressing but, as you observe, predictable self-serving and patriarchy-preserving way. Seeing people riot in the streets because they like to watch football, and have no concern at all for the suffering of others, makes me think of words like “soulless” and “heartless.” WTF is wrong with these people?

    And I’m apparently on track to become a broken record in your comments section, Historiann: The Onion has a particularly sharp-edged article today calling out the general media reaction of concern for Paterno and his reputation above the people whom he allowed to be raped and abused.,26609/

  21. quixote on 10 Nov 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    Fannie, honestly. It’s only a Gender Issue when the gender is female. When it’s male, then the issue is unfairness, or a media witchhunt, or human nature. You know that.

    Also, I’ve seen talk elsewhere faulting the grad student for not making sure the case was prosecuted. Right. And what would his chances be of ever getting a job in coaching after that? And, given that the DA chose not to prosecute when Sandusky confessed to one of the mothers while the police listened in, given that, how likely is it that the sacrifice of his career would have amounted to a hill of beans?

    As other have said earlier, this crap is only going to stop when the culture changes. What’s so maddening is that even high profile sacrifices after the fact don’t change anything.

  22. Northern Barbarian on 10 Nov 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    Another angle on the behavior of the young coach McQueary in 2002 — team sports grew out of military games, and military discipline still shapes sports culture, especially in American football. Obey the coach, obey the team captain, any questioning of authority is being a “bad team player” and, as quixote said, puts at risk your future in the organization. I agree that this seems to be a particularly male problem, and in my observation hierarchy, obedience and loyalty are more important to men than to women. I also have a general sense that many men just don’t see sexual assault as being anywhere near as serious a crime as women tend to — I’d like to be wrong on that one.

    So while I agree that McQueary *should* have just screamed and called the cops, I can also understand why he did not. I don’t know that crushing his career now will do much to repair the larger problem.

  23. Indyanna on 10 Nov 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    It’s not clear to me how the grad. student weighing a possible duty to persist in reporting what he had seen against his “chances… of ever getting a job in coaching” is any different, ethically, morally, or legally, from the head coach passing the story along to the athletic director and then heading over to practice. Each one presumably relied on the assumption that the next higher-up would take over from there. If the DA has police-recorded evidence of a “confession” and chooses not to proceed it also problematizes the prescription that any given party “should have gone to the police.”

    The global e-mail that our president sent out yesterday in response to this episode outlines exactly this sort of a “report it immediately to your next higher up” model of accountability. It doesn’t deputize anyone to follow the case through the system and manage the response. Paterno could, and probably should, have announced what he knew on the “Coaches’ Corner,” or whatever they call the ubiquitous radio show, or during a post-game press conference. That would have given us a chance to see whether the now sanctimonious ESPN-writer clan would have run with the story or sent it straight to sidebar. All of these misjudgments, cowardices, and self-dealings converge at the level of institutional structure and policy, which is why the most appropriate institutional response would have been for the whole board of trustees to resign en-masse. Why a charitable foundation run by a former employee needs access to locker and shower facilities is beyond my compass.

  24. OlderThanDirt on 10 Nov 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    I can maybe understand someone not doing the right thing under pressure at the time of witnessing a crime. But knowing that a rapist continues to have access to potential victims, and this is not a problem for ANY of these men, as long as the rapist made sure he raped his victims off-campus, this is just horrifying to me. This is EXACTLY what those in the church who transferred priests from parish to parish did. The victims are nothing to them, nothing.

    I think everyone who knew about any of the incidents and didn’t report it after it became obvious that Sandusky wasn’t leaving Second Mile was horribly complicit.

  25. Charlie on 10 Nov 2011 at 5:12 pm #

    I think it’s reductive and unhelpful to characterize the cover-up as “more of a gender problem” and not a endemic, deeply-rooted social problem that no group of people is exempt from. It’s not that gender doesn’t matter in sexual abuse–of course it does, it’s disproportionally committed by males, and inflicted (somewhat less) disproportionally on female victims. But the tendency to silence child abuse sadly cannot be pinned disproportionally on men, and I’m afraid I don’t share your faith that a female university president would have acted differently. It would entirely depend on the individual.

    My sister is a social worker, and she’s been repeatedly bullied not to file official reports of child abuse and neglect by her higher-ups, who are, in this case, exclusively female. She’s since got a new job and is in the process of reporting those superiors to the state child services board. Her superiors, BTW, are legally required to report any evidence of child abuse, just like her.

    My other sister and my mother (herself a survivor of sexual abuse) reported a lecherous teacher in middle school in the early nineties, only to be rudely and swiftly dismissed by a female principal (another mandatory reporter!). This has recently come to light in my hometown as the same teacher, who was later shifted to a high school, is being charged with raping a teenager. The detective who interviewed my sister reported that the principal, since retired, lied straight to his face about the details of the case. Twenty years later and she is still covering her ass.

    One of my best friends still has not forgiven her (now dead) mother for hushing her up when her step-father’s father molested her. To the grave, her mother was more concerned about her husband and his family’s reaction than the actual abuse suffered by her daughter.

    Child abuse is covered up every day. Men do it; women do it. Priests do it; nuns do it. People who are specifically trained to identify abuse and are constantly reminded that they will be held civilly and criminally liable if they don’t report abuse nonetheless do it. Predators thrive in under a larger societal shadow of shame and misogyny that stigmatizes anyone who is sexually violated and punishes anyone who dares talk about it. (This is where the gender/patriarchy component is central.) There are a lot of cowards like Paterno out there and most of them will never be punished.

  26. Another Damned Medievalist on 10 Nov 2011 at 8:29 pm #

    I have to say that the letter our Pres sent out was pretty good. There was the horrible chain of command stuff, and instructions as to which people on campus were the people we should call.

    But there were also two sentences that were heartening. One said that SLAC encouraged taking any cases where the law had been broken to the proper legal authorities, and that, if the person reporting wanted to be accompanied, people from campus security or some other office would do so. The other asked faculty to use the opportunity as they saw fit to address the issues of reporting abuse and assault, and to somehow communicate to students that victims of assault were not alone.

  27. Undine on 10 Nov 2011 at 8:39 pm #

    I don’t have much to add to your post and all these comments, but one of the reports stated that when McQueary (or someone else) reported the incident, he was told, in effect, “You misinterpreted the incident. They were just horsing around.” In other words, this: “You did not see what you say you saw,” with the implication that no one would believe him if he reported it further. This chillingly echoes the kind of statements that abusers make to those they abuse. I’m not saying that the witness was abused or defending what he did, but it all seems part of this same culture of silence that covers up these actions and doesn’t alert the police.

  28. sophylou on 10 Nov 2011 at 9:18 pm #

    @Undine, yes, that echoes what I’ve been thinking about McQueary. I can’t quite excuse McQueary’s failure to call the police, but I do wonder if more isn’t going to come out suggesting a whole lot of coercion, abuse, and willed blindness that we don’t know about yet. I certainly think McQueary bears some responsibility here, but it’s been bothering me to see people (not here, but lots of other places) pointing fingers at him as a way of displacing blame from Paterno.

  29. figleaf on 10 Nov 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    “[W]omen who make it into positions of authority tend to be more willing to blow the whistle than their male peers.”

    I have a feeling that might be more the result of the exceptional-pioneer effect than an assessment of the nature of average human beings, women or men. I have to agree with Charlie that a heck of a lot of nasty business ends up under the rug in institutions less segregated than the Boys Club of college football.

    I agree with Indyanna that this bit is just out of control: “The global e-mail that our president sent out yesterday in response to this episode outlines exactly this sort of a report it immediately to your next higher up’ model of accountability.”

    Is that seriously the school’s position? That if an employee sees a crime of violence they’re to report it to their manager? It didn’t work at Penn State and it didn’t work in the Catholic Church because it doesn’t work! I’m not opposed to management as a profession, at all. But the management impulse is to manage things, not dial 911, so they’re not going to be any better prepared to call than the actual eye witness. So… the eye witness should probably just make the call.


  30. Z on 10 Nov 2011 at 11:09 pm #

    We have lots of this stuff here. The only ones who ever get anything done are those who break “chain of command” or don’t know about it and call the police.

  31. Historiann on 11 Nov 2011 at 7:36 am #

    I’m not backing down from my assessment that rape in Big Football, like rape in the Church, is a man thing that other men are eager to cover up. Please name for me the all-female environment and hierarchy that has systematically covered up rape for decades.

    Yes, individual women can and do commit sexual assault, but what I’m writing about here is the systematic coverup, not just the crime. Other than the fictional narratives of Maria Monk and other viciously anti-Catholic propaganda directed at convents, I’m at a loss.

  32. Historiann on 11 Nov 2011 at 7:38 am #

    And p.s. to Clio’s Disciple way upthread: IMHO, mountains don’t get their own lions! I wonder how long it’s been since someone spotted a couger in Penn’s woods, anyway?

  33. OlderThanDirt on 11 Nov 2011 at 7:45 am #

    I was nearly incoherent in my comment yesterday because I am just stunned that all of these people saw Sandusky with young boys AFTER the janitor’s report and AFTER McQuery’s report and said nothing. Children’s lives were held to be worth less than the football program. Can we just take a moment and think about that? The football program is more important that children’s lives.

    Over and over again we’ve seen that women’s lives mean nothing when sports are involved, but I honestly didn’t think that these men could be this self-centered. It makes me wonder if anything would have been covered up. Could Sandusky gotten away with murder? As long as the bodies were off-campus?

  34. Tenured Radical on 11 Nov 2011 at 7:50 am #

    Yes to everything you said: I’ve got a version of this over at my place. There’s a piece in the New York Times today about the classroom, and another about how a very few students are standing up about the sexual abuse.

    I used to love football and I honestly can’t watch it anymore. The idealizing of people like Paterno — even prior to revelations about how they cover up crimes — makes me ill. I feel the same way about Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun.

  35. Historiann on 11 Nov 2011 at 8:03 am #

    Thanks for your terrific post, TR. I just commented over at your place, too.

    Everyone–go read Tenured Radical’s analysis of 1) universities and their systematic impulse to cover up rape and sexual assault, 2) the callousness of college students toward rape victims, and 3) the importance of a feminist response to any and all reports of sexual assault and rape, no matter the sex of the victim.

    Clio Bluestocking also offers some painful memories and reflections on the ways universities and schools work to cover for abusers rather than to protect and vindicate victims.

  36. Charlie on 11 Nov 2011 at 8:13 am #

    I should clarify: I agree entirely that THIS scandal is almost entirely about men, and the larger problem of rape culture on campus and Big Football’s often winking complicity in rape culture is first and nearly exclusively a male problem. Reducing rape and abuse is also a male problem–like those awesome “Rape Prevention” campaigns aimed at men that say things like “If you’re walking alone at night, DON’T RAPE ANYONE.” I also take your point that this incident in particular was likely swept under the rug because of the boys-club mentality about sex, rape, and power.

    However, increasing the reporting of sexual violence is a problem for everyone. I’ve been a state-mandated reporter and have seen that the silence, the covering up, the cover-your-ass mentality can be found in legions of female-run elementary schools and summer camps. And if the whole point of this justified national outrage is working to keep anything this from happening, the problem of silence is everyone’s problem.

  37. Historiann on 11 Nov 2011 at 8:35 am #

    Yes, and when you can point to an example of an all-female environment in which women in authority covered up for years rape and sexual abuse in their midst, I will agree with you that it’s an equally shared problem.

    But, seriously? Not to see rape and the institutional coverup thereof as a clearly gendered problem requires some serious delusions, dude.

  38. Historiann on 11 Nov 2011 at 9:32 am #

    Readers here might be interested in the thoughts of Christopher Clausen, an English department faculty member at Penn State, who writes:

    From the time I arrived at Penn State in 1985 to head the English department, the place seemed extravagantly hierarchical and closed off, even for a land-grant university. Its presidents (three in my time) were all obsessed with public relations and cocooned by flatterers. The faculty includes many distinguished members but has always seemed unusually docile in its relations with the higher administration.

    . . . . .

    The steady drip-drip-drip has only begun. If anyone in or outside Happy Valley needed a lesson in the dangers of big-time athletics, the temptations of secrecy, or the bureaucratic arrogance of mega-universities, here it is.

  39. truffula on 11 Nov 2011 at 9:35 am #

    doesn’t deputize anyone

    In fact, most folks commenting here are likely to be mandatory reporters and if that procedure works correctly, then your office of Affirmative Action (or equivalent) is involved and they are deputized, by the president if the f’ing university, who is also involved. Universities all have similar structures and procedures that have developed in response to a combination of legislation and case law. If you don’t know the procedure it is either because your university didn’t bother to provide training or because you hate all those damn trainings and didn’t go when asked.

    Everybody has pretty much the same procedure. A person with relatively little power can’t be expected to go up against Sandusky or other powers that be. That’s why you report to a manager, somebody who does have relative power.

  40. truffula on 11 Nov 2011 at 9:57 am #

    I should have written: report to a manager, and in a case where there is clearly a crime, the police.

  41. Historiann on 11 Nov 2011 at 9:59 am #

    And I think anyone can stop a crime in progress. Isn’t that what a “citizen’s arrest” is? (Tenured Radical’s post has a discussion about mandatory reporters. I don’t think it’s the same when we’re talking about non-minors, though, who as legal adults are presumed to be capable of reporting crimes against themselves in ways that children are not presumed capable of doing the same.)

  42. Spanish Prof on 11 Nov 2011 at 10:30 am #

    I agree with most of what you said, but I will also have to agree with Charlie re my lack of faith that women would necessarily uncover it. My example would be the Magdalene Asylums, in Ireland at least. Sorry, but my faith in humanity (both genders) is not as high.

  43. Anonymous on 11 Nov 2011 at 10:39 am #

    Don’t want to detract from the more serious issues, but since you asked, Historiann: No cougars in PA for 100+ years, but clearly just a matter of time before they return.

  44. Tenured Radical on 11 Nov 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    Just did the online mandatory sexual harassment training for my new job, and I must say, I was mighty impressed by it. Anyone who has had such a training has no excuse not to do the right thing (and no legal cover either, I’m afraid); and any institution that doesn’t do such training doesn’t give a sh*t (are you listening Zenith???)

  45. shw on 11 Nov 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    Some thoughts/questions perhaps disconnected from one another:

    One comment mentioned a coverup at PSU — is there any evidence that Paterno was part of a coverup? I haven’t followed the story exhaustively, but I haven’t read anywhere that he was.

    I just completed the online harassment course required by my institution. Aside from the question of whether these things are worth a damn, there was an extended segment on what one should do if a student reported a case of harassment to you; the instruction was clearly that you/I, the professor, should report it to senior admin./HR, not a) go to the police, b) keep it between you/I and the student or c) handle it ourselves. I raise this not because harassment and rape are the same, but because the hypothetical posed by the course seems somewhat analogous to the present situation. Assuming that Paterno is telling the truth (admittedly, a significant benefit of the doubt), someone reported it to Paterno and he reported it to the AD and the president, who were responsible for following through. Obviously, everyone (except Sandusky, maybe) wishes that Paterno had follow up, but did he have a real or ideal responsibility to do so?

    Finally, why is it acceptable for assault and rape that occur on between members of university communities and on community grounds to be handled internally? How is student-student assault, for instance, not still a felony? Why does it get handled by student disciplinary procedures? I have always found this baffling, frustrating, frightening.

  46. Emma on 11 Nov 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    Finally, why is it acceptable for assault and rape that occur on between members of university communities and on community grounds to be handled internally? How is student-student assault, for instance, not still a felony? Why does it get handled by student disciplinary procedures? I have always found this baffling, frustrating, frightening.

    Because colleges and universities want it that way. Because it aids in the cover-up. Because it allows them to control and direct and shut down investigations at will. Campus Security provides security for the institution, not the students.

    Anecdotally, when a female student, Laura Dickinson, was raped and murdered at Eastern Michigan University, the University administration and University police covered it up by lying to the parents and the public. The President: male. Head of security: female. VP of Student Affairs: male.

    Whistleblower: female, tenured, less-than-full-professor on the security committee and someone I know personally. How she blew the whistle? “I just kept asking questions. And every time they lied, it was a violation of the Clery Act.” And, because she asked questions, EMU paid $2.5 million to the woman’s parents and was fined a record amount for Clery violations, and the President, the VP, and the Head of Security were all fired.

    All she did was ask questions and refuse to believe the obvious bullsh** being spewed at her. But we never learn from women, do we? How many of you knew *that* story?

    What more could Paterno have done? He could’ve asked some f***ing questions, for one. Like my friend did, my friend who had a f***load less institutional, gender, and economic power than Joe “I don’t know nuttin’” Paterno.

  47. Emma on 11 Nov 2011 at 2:50 pm #

    Should say:

    But we never learn from women, do we? Because we never get the chance. How many of you knew *that* story?

  48. The Alchemist on 11 Nov 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    Thanks, Historiann.

    I have only a couple of things to add. McQueary’s role, or, put another way, his spectacular moral failure, is perhaps the most boggling to me. However, because PA has laws that protect whistleblowers from getting fired, and because the definition of whistleblower is broadly construed, McQueary is actually considered a whistleblower, and so cannot be fired. In fact, he’s going to be coaching the game this weekend. (From the coaches’ box–”for his own safety.”) He is apparently too entitled and clueless to think that he should resign from his job.

    One of the things that I find interesting is the vast difference between media coverage of this child rape scandal and a recent one in Philadelphia. Several months ago, a grand jury handed down indictments for several priests (child abuse) and a monsignor (endangering child welfare). This marked the first time that a higher-ranking member of the Church had been indicted for his role in covering up allegations of child rape and/or abuse. Yet it was ignored in the national media and barely covered in the local media. But because the PSU scandal involves almighty college football and a beloved (and totally autocratic) coach, it’s bigger news. It’s disgusting.

    I’m curious about the response from PSU alumni, most of whom are huge football fans. I suspect that the students who are rioting are a minority of students. But what about the alums–does anyone know if most of them are aghast at the initial cover-up and systemic abuse? Or do they see this as an undeserved tarnishing of Paterno’s legacy (or Spanier’s or Sandusky’s)?

  49. Z on 11 Nov 2011 at 5:57 pm #

    From what I’ve observed, you have to call police, press criminal charges, file civil suit, etc. Internal reporting is just part of dotting i’s and crossing t’s’; if you get satisfaction at that, great, but most don’t.

  50. truffula on 11 Nov 2011 at 6:04 pm #

    What more could Paterno have done? He could’ve asked some f***ing questions, for one.

    Well said, Emma.

    Internal “handling” of harassment is damaging not only for the cover-up of real issues affecting real victims but also for the fact that it remains a “personnel” issue and thus not a matter of public record. Confidentiality protects victim(s), who might not want to be known for the rest of their time as students as “the one who…” but it also protects the perpetrator, even if ze is fired/resigns/etc.

    I would suggest though that it is vital for anybody who thinks that ze will have it in hirself to do the right thing when the time comes to get educated about resources and to think carefully about strategy. I know it sounds crazy to suggest there might be strategy involved but this is the voice of experience talking crazy. Know the rules and know your allies.

    Regarding PSU alumni and others, the folks I know who work at PSU say this is a “tragic” turn of events given all the good that JoePa et al. did while the alumni I know say it is “sickening” and a reason to end the football program. My small sample.

  51. The Alchemist on 11 Nov 2011 at 6:07 pm #

    Update on McQueary, who’s been placed on administrative leave:

  52. Grad Student on 11 Nov 2011 at 6:59 pm #

    I think there’s a misunderstanding about what a “citizen’s arrest” actually is, when it is appropriate, and how it should be handled. Depending upon the jurisdiction, no, not just anyone can stop a crime in progress. Nor is there a legal obligation to do so. (Moral, perhaps, but not legal.)

    I’m also surprised that no one has yet pointed out that Sandusky’s actions were, in fact, reported to the police. By multiple people and on multiple occasions. There was an investigation by the University and municipal police. Nothing came of the initial investigation and the graduate assistant was never questioned. At that point, what more is someone expected to do?

  53. Indyanna on 11 Nov 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    @ Grad Student: quixote pointed out yesterday, above, that “the police listened in” on a conversation that included a “confession,” which implied that somebody reported it at some point. (No citation given therein, however). I think the presumptive magic bullet power of “somebody going to the police” is being somewhat overestimated in the national discussion. That’s not to say that a whole series of people shouldn’t have picked up the phone and made the call. As I suggested above, the only **sure-fire** or definitive way Paterno could have used the “power of being Paterno” to blow the case irrevocably wide open would have been to have blurted out to a sideline television reporter in response to the formulaic halftime question “Coach, what does your team need to do in the second half to stop the run…” something like “I’ve got a serious allegation of sexual impropriety in my program, so I can’t think about things like that right now…” And even that would have depended largely on how the media ran with it or didn’t. There are just some things that pretty much the whole culture doesn’t want to contemplate, acknowledge, or deal with. When it does blow, everyone (with some perverse justice) points the figure at everyone else. I think this episode, factually, has a lot more miles to go.

  54. Emma on 12 Nov 2011 at 9:45 am #

    Grad Student,

    You’re wrong on your facts.

    Sandusky was reported to the PSU Campus police and subsequently the State child welfare agency in 1998. The D.A. did not prosecute. If you think PSU wasn’t informed of this and wasn’t deeply involved in any subsequent investigation, including Paterno, I think you’re nuts.

    Sandusky retired in 1999 unquestionably at Paterno’s push. Sandusky, the guy who sparked the nickname “Linebacker U” and is most responsible for 2 national titles at PSU, never works in college coaching again, anywhere. PSU’s process of offshoring its pedophile problem begins.

    Somewhere in here, Sandusky is caught, by a PSU coach, “wrestling” with a pre-teen boy in the weight room, in a face-to-face position that looks nothing like wrestling. Not reported as far as I can tell.

    In 2000, a PSU janitor caught Sandusky performing oral sex on a pre-teen boy in the PSU shower room. He reported to his boss who told him, basically, to shut up if he wanted to keep his job. Not reported beyond the janitor’s supervisor and co-workers.

    In 2002, McQueary catches Sandusky raping a boy in the PSU showers. McQueary tells Paterno. Paterno tells Curley and the other guy. McQueary tells Curley and the other guy. Undoubtedly Spanier is informed as well. Nobody calls the police, nobody calls the campus police, Sandusky is not barred from campus. Sandusky is simply is told that he can no longer bring boys from The Second Mile onto campus. That is, PSU finishes offshoring its pedophile problem.

    In 2008, a high school boy, where Sandusky *coaches*, tell his mother that Sandusky touched him inappropriately. She tells the school, the *school calls the state cops*. Hey! Whaddya know? Offshoring works!! People who don’t have vested interest in protecting Sandusky get involved. People who don’t have a vested interest in protecting Sandusky are running the investigation. PSU, since it’s offshored its pedophile problem, isn’t involved.

    As a result, Sandusky is indicted. This indictment — it didn’t spring from thin f’ing air and it wasn’t spurred by anything that took place at PSU.

    So, let’s recap: 1 report to PSU campus police in 1998. Nothing comes of *that* report, except PSU starts its move to offshore its pedophile problem as Sandusky “retires”.

    One report to state cops in 2008, from which springs a 40 count indictment for 15 years of child sexual abuse, most of which took place on PSU’s campus.

    See the f’ing difference? Paterno’s, Spanier’s, PSU’s sticky little fingerprints are all over a coverup meant to protect a pedophile. Just look at the facts. What more could Paterno have done? He could have done any. single. f’ing. thing. that was meant to help those children and stop that man. Instead, everything he did, everything everybody at PSU did was designed to protect a pedophile and offshore the problem. Only when PSU was completely out of the picture was any serious action taken against a serial pedophile rapist.

    If you look at all this, it sure looks like Paterno was much more active than inactive re: Sandusky’s abuse. It looks less like Paterno failed to do something, and more like he was part of a cadre of PSU men who reached out and protected a pedophile from being caught and prosecuted.

  55. Grad Student on 12 Nov 2011 at 11:17 am #

    Emma, yes, those are the facts. None of which contradict what I actually said re: it was reported, investigated, and dropped.

    There was an incident in 1998. It was reported to two police forces and one state agency. It was investigated. It was dropped. Sandusky was forced into retirement. Yes, they should have prevented him from using PSU’s facilities for The Second Mile, but beyond that, what more was the University or Paterno or anyone else supposed to do? I genuinely want to know what else a private citizen could have done. If you or I is in that position, what do we do?

  56. Linden on 12 Nov 2011 at 11:49 am #

    So let us turn it back to you, Grad Student. If these are the facts, Paterno is informed in 2002, by an eyewitness who works for him, that someone who used to work for him is seen raping a child in his own facilities. This is not the first time this has happened, either, and Paterno certainly had reason to know it. And his response is to mumble to a few higher ups for CYA purposes, and tell the rapist not to come back but to do his raping elsewhere. And that’s enough action? No informing the police about a witnessed crime? No finding out who the kid is and telling his parents, or telling the program? No mandatory reporting? Nothing? There’s really nothing more that he, or anyone, could have done? Would you stand back and let a kid be raped on your watch?

    Honestly, if nothing more could have been done in this situation, then really there’s nothing that anyone could ever do in any situation. There’s no law, there’s no morality, there’s no humanity. It’s all pretense.

    This kind of thing is so typical, too. An agency I used to work for did the exact same thing. A male supervisor sexually harassed a female employee, who eventually filed a grievance when the daily abuse got to be too much for her. After she went public, seven other women in the agency stepped forward to report harassment by the same man. None had been as badly treated as the complainant, because she had to work directly with him and they only encountered him at agency-wide meetings. Until they came forward, however, the all-male leadership of the agency didn’t take the complaint seriously. The harasser was allowed to resign and was given a good recommendation, because it would have been “unfair” to spoil his chances for new employment. The complainant tried to continue her work with the agency, but eventually departed after the hostility of upper management wore her down. I encountered harasser a few years later, working for a new agency in a fine, responsible management position.

  57. Ellie on 12 Nov 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    Lots to think about here, but in r.e the issue of female university presidents being more likely to take action on sexual violence involving Big Athletics, the Iowa case from 2008 (??) suggests that is not necessarily so. In that case, it seems that the president was actually less empowered to take action, because she had to prove to all the Big Boosters and other football fans that a woman wasn’t going to go all feminist-y on them. In short, to prove her bona fides to the Big Sports lobby on campus and off, she had to play along and participate in the cover-up.

  58. Anonymous on 12 Nov 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    (Two things at the outset. First, let me say that I am posting anonymously because I will briefly mention my job situation at the end where, surprise, surprise, what I will say about sexual harassment in my workplace isn’t something my employer wants to hear. Second: I’ve broken this up into two, but the first post, working through Linden’s post, is long.)

    Linden–let me turn this back on you. If you read carefully, you will notice that Grad Student does not actually mention the 2002 case in hir post that you cite. In 1998, multiple agencies–the University, municipal police, state child welfare, the county DA’s office–were involved in investigating the case. The DA’s office chose not to go further. The University “retired” Sandusky. So how would you answer Grad Student’s question: beyond banning Second Mile from the premises, what more could the university or a private citizen have done in 1998?

    Moreover, since you suggested in your first paragraph that banning Second Mile from campus was tantamount to “tell[ing] the rapist not to come back but to do his raping elsewhere,” what more could the University or any private citizen have done when the relevant governmental agencies have decided to do nothing in 1998?

    Actually answering Grad Student’s question, and not dodging it, is important, because 2002 was not the next incident–2000 was. In this instance, the janitor reported that he saw Sandusky sexually assaulting a child, he feared reporting it higher up the chain than his supervisor because he might lose his job.

    If he knew anything about the resolution of the 1998 case–we seem to all be operating under the assumption that “everyone knew” what was going on–or if his supervisor told him the outcome of that investigation, the janitor might well have believed that reporting what he saw to the police would cost him his job without leading to any prosecution or perhaps even consequences for Sandusky. (The grand jury indictment doesn’t say that either the janitor or his supervisor were aware of the 1998 incident, however.) So there is a “what more could have been done here?” question as well. I think that we can say that say that the janitor did not fulfill his moral duty to report to the police while understanding his inaction.

    These two incidents, then, may have conditioned what happened in 2002. McQueary witnessed Sandusky raping a boy in the showers. He “blows the whistle” at work, reporting it to his supervisor (Paterno) and his father. He further reports to AD Curley. A week later he meets with AD Curley and Vice Provost Schultz, who say that they will start an investigation. Curley and Schultz lie, and never report it to police.

    What more could he have done? We don’t know why McQueary didn’t report this to the police directly, but I think we have to assume that he feared his career would be over if he did. (If PSU were going to cover it up, that would probably part of how they would do it.) He did get assurances that it will be reported to the police, however. So while we can argue about whether McQueary failed a moral obligation to go to the police in 2002, I think that it is possible to understand–if not excuse–his actions when we think about the fact that he feared the demise of his career and received assurances from his boss that they would handle it. And if, in fact, McQueary knew about 1998 and 2000 (which we don’t know, but I’ll accept that stipulation), he might well have weighed the knowledge that nothing was done in these earlier cases as he worried about negative repercussions to himself.

    I’ve gone into this at some length because they actually address some of Grad Student’s points in some detail. But let’s walk through Linden’s questions about what Paterno might possible have done:

    1) Reporting the incident to the police: This is his moral, but not legal, obligation. Moreover, Linden, there’s a hitch here. He would be, as you said, reporting a “witnessed crime”–but not witnessed by him. The police might or might not choose to investigate a crime based on a second hand report like that. It’s also true that Paterno’s report, as hearsay evidence, would almost certainly not be admissible in a trial.

    2) Finding out who the kid is and telling the parents: this is slightly problematic on two counts. First: since Paterno did not witness the event, his ability to find out the identity of the child is somewhat compromised, to say the least. (How would *you* find out the child’s identity in that case? I don’t know if I would know how to.) Second: Paterno “going rogue” and investigating the case himself would have almost certainly have frakked up any investigation by the police and any attempt by the county DA’s office to prosecute Sandusky.

    3) No mandatory reporting: Paterno’s not a mandatory reporter in Pennsylvania or under federal law. This brings us back to Question One.

    4) “There’s really nothing more that he, or anyone, could have done?” Linden, here’s where you actually answer Grad Student’s question with…the exact same question. What do *you* think that someone should do? Going to the police (your Question One), is an option, but a problematic one (for reasons I suggested above). If you have a better answer, please offer it, rather than just “turning it back” on Grad Student.

    5) If I am sounding peeved, it’s because of the final Question: “Would you stand back and let a kid be raped on your watch?” This is an absolutely reprehensible thing to say. As I read this, you seem to imply that Grad Student, by asking “what more could a private citizen do?”, would be willing to stand back and let a child be raped on hir watch. Maybe you didn’t intend this. But that’s how it reads. And if so: it is an absolutely reprehensible accusation to levy. This is part of why this post is so long–watching someone make that accusation against someone else truly infuriates me.

  59. Anonymous on 12 Nov 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    Second post responding to Linden:
    I agree that sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious issue. It is, however, not *in any way* the same as the sexual assault of a minor. Nor is your example of a female employee being sexually harassed by her male supervisor entirely comparable to the PSU case. In the case of the female complainant you cite, as far as I can tell, she lodged a complaint that ultimately led to the harasser being allowed to resign (my sense from your anecdote is that there was some subtle pressure once management began to take the accounts of harassment seriously). This is not perfect justice, especially in that the harasser was not owed a good recommendation when he resigned.

    Perfect justice would have involved the harasser’s termination, but this might have involved a lawsuit that the employer might not have been willing to risk. Perfect justice might also have involved the harassed women receiving a well-deserved civil settlement from the harasser, but ultimately it was their choice not to initiate a civil suit against the harasser. It is, however, rough justice–she complained, and the harasser no longer worked at the firm in the wake of her complaint.

    Mind you, I don’t say the last bit to blame the women involved for not suing. Given my understanding of the outcome of these kinds of suits, it’s not entirely likely that they would have won money and there’s a non-trivial chance that such a suit would have been costly in terms of current and future employment. In other words, a rational calculation of the situation, given the difficulties involved, might have given the harassed women pause. I would find it eminently reasonable if that informed their thinking, especially in the case of the woman who suffered the most egregious harassment; I suspect I would have done the same thing in her situation.

    Now, in some ways, Linden, this sexual harassment anecdote does explain some of the institutional inertia at PSU, but maybe leads to some different conclusions. Because based on what you’ve written, it’s not just management that knew about sexual harassment and did nothing–it’s fellow co-workers. The supervisor harassed seven other women at agency wide meetings? And no other co-workers observed this? And no other co-workers blew the whistle? Did you observe this? Did they wonder if they “saw what they thought they saw,” or did they weigh the risk reward of saying something (especially if the seven harassed women themselves weren’t willing to come forward)? Did you choose to blow the whistle? Why or why not?

    I don’t ask the last questions in an accusing fashion–I really don’t. Because I have been in this very situation myself. I work in an academic department one of whose senior most members is a serial sexual harasser. And people know about it, and do nothing. Oh, I mean, the department chair encourages undergrad advisees to switch to another professor if the advisee becomes uncomfortable at hir advances, but it goes no further. Another Eminent Professor warns hir graduate students not to be alone in the office with the door closed with said Senior Professor but said nothing when Senior Professor drove one of EP’s students out academia after the student rejected SP’s advances. When SP’s harassment of another grad student is so bad that the town police are contacted? A Tenured Professor helps said student avoid the harassment but discourages contacting university higher ups.

    What did I do? Well, nothing. When you’re an untenured professor and you see this happen three times, thinking each time that “another tenured person, with job security, is taking care of this,” and there are no repercussions, you get a little gun-shy. I have no doubt that had I said something about these three instances above I would not have tenure now; Senior Professor would have made me “go away.” I also suspect that I would not have a job elsewhere (turns out, Senior Professor is very well-connected in the field!).

    And I think I have grounds for my suspicions. When a tenured colleague had an affair with my now ex-spouse and then lodged a spurious claim of sexual harassment against her to ensure her silence–he was worried his wife would find out about the affair–everyone looked the other way. When I told other colleagues about this and wondered if I could do anything to protect her or myself–I didn’t want to become a problem he could make “go away”–I was told that “it must be more complicated,” or “we don’t really know what happened, so don’t make trouble,” or that the threats my colleague made against my ex-spouse and her employment to ensure her silence weren’t things I could report to our university whistle-blower hotline.

    Turns out, lots of good people–or, at least, people you were sure were really decent people–look the other way and don’t make waves when it suits them. Tenured people don’t make waves when it suits them. In my case, everyone I talked to looked the other way. So what did I learn? I d–n well wasn’t going to be the one who made waves when I would have gotten my butt canned.

    When it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace, I think that lots of people talk big. Lots of us can say, “If I saw that happening, I would have said something,” or “I would have reported it.” I know I was pretty certain before I got this job that I would have. But you know what? I didn’t, because I like being a professor, I like this career, and I didn’t want to get fired. What were your colleagues thinking, when those seven other women were harassed at agency-wide meetings? Did they witness things, or look the other way? Did you? Again, I don’t say this with malice towards you. After all, I’ve witnessed things and said nothing because I feared for my job. I’d like to talk big and say if I worked at your agency I would have kept an eye out and said something. But I think I know better than to just assume I know what I would have done.

  60. Z on 12 Nov 2011 at 4:34 pm #

    Good job Emma.

  61. Z on 12 Nov 2011 at 7:33 pm #

    Good job Emma 9:45 AM !

  62. another anonymous on 12 Nov 2011 at 11:47 pm #

    Because I have been in this very situation myself.

    So have I, anonymous, and i mean it very seriously when I say I’m sorry your colleagues are such a lot of self-absorbed a$$holes. You are quite right that tenure gives them privilege. They should be using it to protect students.

    What I did when when I finally realized that a colleague was a serial harasser was feel disgusted with myself for having reasoned the signs away for so long. After that I put my ear to the ground and learned everything I could. I reported and when that went nowhere I moved up the ranks. I was accused of being a trouble maker, I was cornered in an office by a person very much my senior, I was threatened with firing, but you know, whatever. I work at a university–that means part of my job is to take care of students. I don’t want to loose my job but I also want to be able to respect myself.

  63. naomi dagen bloom on 13 Nov 2011 at 12:00 am #

    Thanks to Historiann and all who have commented here. In an ideal academic world, each of you who is on a faculty or part of a college administration would print out this post plus entire exchange and offer it to colleagues for discussion among you. Imagine.

  64. See something, say something « Design. Build. Play. on 13 Nov 2011 at 8:28 pm #

    [...] issue at Penn State has made me think about one’s own ability to become a whistleblower. Historiann and Tenured Radical both discussed the issue itself much better than I could have so I’m not [...]

  65. My Ambivalent Relationship to College Sports « The Academy's Bench Warmer on 14 Nov 2011 at 11:22 am #

    [...] the PSU tragedy continues to unfold, a number of thoughtful people have noted all the bad things about college sports, or, more specifically, college football and [...]

  66. Z on 14 Nov 2011 at 11:35 pm #

    Thank you anon #11:47!

  67. soon-to-be-ex-academic on 16 Nov 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    Anonymous, my understanding is that in 2002 Sandusky was not banned from the University; he was simply banned from bringing young boys onto University grounds. I kind of hope my understanding is wrong, as that act really turns my stomach. It pretty clearly implies that the administrators acknowledged he was harming young boys, but they would leave him to it as long as he kept the University out of it. Ick, ick, ick. And shame, shame, shame.

    What could Paterno have done? To begin with, and perhaps most importantly, I think, might have been not to downplay the reports he received. (McQueary, paraphrased: “I saw Sandusky anally raping a boy in the shower.” Paterno, paraphrased: “What McQueary observed was some horsing around in the shower.” Message to McQueary: This is your reality now.) How about put Sandusky on administrative leave pending investigation, and then pushing for a thorough investigation?

    One thing I appreciate about this discussion thread is that people are trying to work through some of the larger systemic implications. Is it a male/female issue? A rape culture issue? Patriarchy? Pseudomilitarism? etc. etc. With Paterno and McQueary, I think we could argue until we were blue in the face regarding what they could have done, should have done, failed in doing, how their in/actions contributed to Sandusky’s crimes and his remaining free to escalate his sexual assaults (anybody else notice that the reports begin with “fondling” and touching genitals and eventually become anal rape? All of it was sexual assault, of course, but I can’t help but think that Sandusky was emboldened by occasionally being caught and not facing consequences). I sincerely hope that these men will face the consequences of their in/actions. At the same time, I want to tear down the system/s which made these actions seem like viable choices.

    How do so many humans end up complicit in crimes against humanity, time and time again (women as well as men)? What are the systematic forces which make such complicity the “correct” choices? In this instance, I don’t think it’s bureaucracy or hierarchy on its own, but the specific pseudomilitary, macho, semper fi indoctrination that is college football (so, yes, in this instance, it’s men). I think maybe the reason we end up using sexual harassment to discuss this case (and then finding it woefully inadequate) arises from falsely envisioning it to have occurred in a corporate bureaucracy. To really get at the particulars of this case, I think it’s much more helpful to imagine a military model (although there’s a bit of cultishness in there, too; I’m not sure what model helps with that, other than “sports team”).

    Wow. I’m supposed to be working on my thesis, but I guess I can’t get this case out of my system. I think I have more to say, perhaps in a second post.

  68. soon-to-be-ex-academic on 16 Nov 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    Hm, looking back at my post I’m not sure I really developed that point about corporate hierarchies vs. something else, but I’ll let it lie.

    I think the reason I’m stuck on the corporate hierarchy thing is that something gets lost from the narrative when people start seeing this situation in that light Paterno wasn’t a middle manager, nor was he a higher-up manager. He was god and general of a pseudo-military organization that absolutely relies on personal ties, obedience, and toeing the line. It was absolutely his organization, and Sandusky was there on his sufference. And as long as Paterno kept Sandusky around, Sandusky retained a certain amount of political power and protection.

    Likewise, Sandusky wasn’t some middle manager. For all intents and purposes, he was the heir apparent and it seems very likely he was being groomed to follow in Paterno’s footsteps. All of that changed in 1999, when Sandusky suddenly retired to “focus on his charity work.” Keep in mind that he was given emeritus status, kept an office, and had free run of the football facilities. Paterno didn’t publicly disown Sandusky, who’d publicly been seen as his protege, so while his resignation was a mystery, he remained closely affiliated with the Penn State football machine.

    I don’t think this is happening much in the current thread, but in many places I see McQueary described as “the grad student,” which seems to distance him from the football apparatus somewhat. I suppose I imagine a young man who’s been with the school a year or two, not really part of the larger apparatus. But McQueary had been recruited and coached by Paterno(back when McQueary was star quarterback as an undergrad), and came to Penn State as a grad student to continue his rise through that pseudo-military organization. Seeing someone as high up as Sandusky raping a young boy, and then being told by Paterno that what he actually saw was “horsing around”? I do not excuse McQueary of his moral duty to report the mo-fo and then do everything he could to get justice, and I condemn him for continuing to support the apparatus after it had failed so spectacularly at human decency, but we can’t stop with pointing the finger at him. Or, hell, Paterno (although I will keep pointing my finger at him as well). Which brings me full circle, so see my rant in the post above.

  69. Brandon on 18 Nov 2011 at 11:36 am #

    The Nittany Lion is the mascot of the Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pennsylvania, USA and its athletic teams. It refers to the mountain lions that once roamed near the school, and to Mount Nittany,[1] a local landmark. There is also a fight song played during sporting events on campus entitled “The Nittany Lion.”

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