Monday, November 7, 2011

Of Course It Gets Worse

For those of you who thought the cesspool that is major college athletics couldn't get any worse, along comes the sexual abuse case involving the Penn State football program to show us we weren't even standing in the deep end yet.

For those of you who missed it over the weekend, former Nittany Lions Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky was arrested and charged with 40 counts of sexual assault of a child.  According to the criminal complaint, many of the alleged assaults took place in the Penn State Athletic Department complex and on football team road trips--with at least three of the assaults witnessed by Athletic Department staff.  Athletic Director Timothy Curley and the school's Vice President for Business and Finance Gary Schultz were charged with perjury after allegedly lying to a grand jury about what they knew about the assaults.

I will spare you the breathtakingly-disgusting details of Sandusky's alleged conduct--and only say that it was first reported to university officials in 1998 and again in 2002--from which the criminal charges filed last week stem.  For I want to focus on the way the University--not just the Athletic Department--responded to these allegations.

Head Football Coach Joe Paterno has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing--as prosecutors say he fulfilled his lone requirement as a University employee--tell his superiors about the allegations.  Not go to police, not bar Sandusky from ever setting foot in the football offices again--just let your boss know about what is going on.  That boss--Cauley--didn't go to the cops either--instead bringing the witness into a closed door meeting with Schultz.  Schultz's involvement sends up the biggest red flag in what looks like a drum and bugel corps competition--as his duties include oversight of the Penn State campus Police Department.  The same Police Department that should have been investigating Sandusky.

While the nature of the allegations are shocking--the University response, sadly, is not.  The culture within all of these Universities and Colleges is that their accountability to the public ends at the edge of the campus.  If you witnessed a co-worker engaging a child in sex in your office, would you tell your boss and just walk away thinking "Well, my responsibility here is done"?  And in what other form of government operation does the police department answer to a non-law enforcement administrator?  Even here in Oshkosh all questions about crime on campus are referred to a Vice Chancellor--not the Police Chief.  And the next on-campus crime numbers press release that I get from UWO will be the first such release I get--in eleven years on the job.  Apparently, it's more important to preserve the image of the campus area being this idyllic place of peace and harmony.

As expected, Penn State administration spent the weekend circling the wagons.  The University President was quick to issue a statement saying Cauley and Schultz still had her "full support".  Both will also have their legal defenses paid for by the University System--and therefore the taxpayers.  Cauley and Schultz are no longer in their positions--having resigned instead of being fired during an emergency meeting of the University Board of Trustees.

You know, these Universities and Colleges can hold all of the rallies and marches and candlelight vigils they want in "support" of sexual assault and abuse victims--but until they stop trying to handle such on-campus incidents "in house" to "save face"--all they are doing is giving those victims a bunch of lip service.  No wonder the majority of college assaults go unreported.

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