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From the Blawgosphere: 4 Thought-Provoking Takes on the Penn State Scandal

The blawgosphere has had plenty of commentary on the still-unfolding events at Penn State involving the sex crimes against children allegedly committed by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Here are some of the takes on this matter that I have found particularly interesting:

1. Scott Greenfield, Simple Justice: "Mike McQueary's Choices"

There must be a protocol, a path, that is clear and known to anyone claiming membership in this race. You do not turn your head away from a child being raped. Not even if you're Joe Paterno. And not even if you're Mike McQueary. No, it's not a violation of the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is a violation of our obligation as human beings. That's a damn good reason to lose a job. Immediately.

In response to Scott's post, a commenter on the Simple Justice blog noted that "Mike McQueary was a graduate student back then. Had he done anything more, his entire career would have been over before it even started, and the coverup probably would have still happened. I do not think it is fair to have expected Mike to destroy himself like that."

Scott's reply: "Life is full of terrible and unfair choices."

2. Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger at "Penn State: What Did They Know and When Did They Know it"

Esposito explores Sandusky's sudden retirement in 1999, just one year after local authorities investigated Sandusky in 1998 for "inappropriate" conduct with a minor but the DA declined to prosecute him. Joe Paterno has claimed ignorance of the 1998 investigation but Esposito asks whether that is really plausible:

Is State College immune from the marriage that all authority figures have for one another in most every other small town. You know like when the police chief and the high school football coach meet over coffee to discuss who's handling security for Friday's game and whether that trouble-making Jones kid will be there. ...

Put those little facts together with the fact that Paterno did not attend Sandusky’s retirement party, and was rarely seen outside of the football facility with Sandusky, and you might wonder what happened to the relationship after 1998. You might wonder why Sandusky quit applying for head coaching jobs. You might even conclude that Coach Paterno nudged his former right-hand man out of his position at age 55, and refused to recommend him for any job at the head of another football program. ...

3. Michael P. Maslanka, Work Matters: "Penn State lessons: investigations into alleged employee misconduct"

Maslanka, a labor and employment lawyer, says the Penn State matter offers several lessons on how to handle investigations into alleged employee misconduct, including:

  • "Train managers who receive complaints of misconduct to actually listen to the employee's concern. Too often a manager will argue with the employee. For example, 'I have known Pete for 20 years and go to church with him. He would not sexually harrass anyone.' The manager needs to declare a mental time-out: Do not dispute the information, but receive it. ..."
  • "... Engage in a technique called 'prospective hindsight.' This technique uses the power of a question, where the decision-makers ask themselves: 'Let's pretend it is two years from now. Our decision to do XYZ comes to light. How will we respond to arguments that we should have done ABC instead?'"
  • "A lawyer or counselor needs to look around the room of execs and say, 'From this point forward we will be judged by what we do now.'"

4. John Scalzi, Whatever: "Omelas State University"

This is not from a legal blog (Scalzi is a science fiction writer) but it is too good to leave out. Scalzi writes:

You know, there’s a part of me who looks at the actions of each of non-raping grown men in the "Pennsylvania State University small-child-allegedly-being-raped-by-a-grown-man-who-is-part-of-the-football-hierarchy" scandal and can understand why those men could rationalize a) not immediately acting in the interests of a small child being raped, b) not immediately going to the police, c) doing only the minimum legal requirements in the situation, d) acting to keep from exposing their organization to a scandal. But here's the thing: that part of me? The part that understands these actions? That part of me is a f*cking coward. And so by their actions -- and by their inactions -- were these men.

He also adds an interesting observation from his world of science fiction:

I'm a science fiction writer, and one of the great stories of science fiction is "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas," which was written by Ursula K. Le Guin. The story posits a fantastic utopian city, where everything is beautiful, with one catch: In order for all this comfort and beauty to exist, one child must be kept in filth and misery. Every citizen of Omelas, when they come of age, is told about that one blameless child being put through hell. And they have a choice: Accept that is the price for their perfect lives in Omelas, or walk away from that paradise, into uncertainty and possibly chaos.

At Pennsylvania State University, a grown man found a blameless child being put through hell. Other grown men learned of it. Each of them had to make their choice, and decide, fundamentally, whether the continuation of their utopia -- or at very least the illusion of their utopia -- was worth the pain and suffering of that one child. Through their actions, and their inactions, we know the choice they made.

Posted by Bruce Carton on November 14, 2011 at 04:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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