Tag Archives: Penn State

The Spanier Indictment

In a move that should come as little surprise, former
Penn State president Graham Spanier has been indicted for perjury, conspiracy,
obstruction of justice, and child endangerment. The indictments come in the
wake of the Freeh Report’s revelations
that–after Penn State’s former athletic
director proposed not reporting to police an allegation against Jerry
Sandusky–Spanier had e-mailed administrators to say that “the only downside for us is if the message
isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having
reported it. But that can be assessed down the road. The approach you outline
is humane and a reasonable way to proceed.”

The basics of the grand jury
indictment against Spanier mirror the conclusions of the Freeh Report–that senior
Penn State administrators, claimed the state’s attorney general, participated
in a “conspiracy of silence” regarding Sandusky’s crimes,
“working to actively conceal the truth, with total disregard
to the suffering of children.” The presentment makes
no claims against Paterno, the attorney general said, because Paterno’s death
marked “the end” of any potential legal ramifications for his behavior.

The grand jury presentment
went into greater detail than did the Freeh Report on two matters. First, in justifying
the perjury charge, the document claimed that “Spanier has repeatedly
misrepresented the level of his knowledge about the investigation.” Both at the
time and in his media barrage this summer, Spanier portrayed himself as
detached and essentially unaware of matters relating to Sandusky, whether in
1998, 2001, or 2011. But the grand jury document indicates that the former
president specifically requested updates from the former Penn State counsel,
Cynthia Baldwin, about the progress of the grand jury inquiry–and seemed
concerned about former coach Joe Paterno hiring his own counsel during the
investigation. According to Baldwin, Spanier mused with her about what type of
information Paterno could be providing to the grand jury.

Second, Spanier’s repeated
excuse as to why he didn’t keep the trustees informed–that he was bound by
grand jury secrecy rules–appears to have been an outright lie. According to the
presentment, the grand jury foreman had told Spanier that the president was
free to discuss his testimony publicly.

Beyond the specifics of the
case, the indictment raises questions about two other entities. First: the NCAA, which leveled draconian
(but appropriate) sanctions against Penn State after the Freeh Report’s
release. Yet while the organization often comes down hard on student-athletes
(or, less often, coaches) who violate its rules, nothing in the sanctions
applied to Spanier, at one point an influential figure within the NCAA. ESPN’s
Jay Bilas has been the most outspoken figure on the NCAA’s apparent double
standard in not sanctioning the college presidents who make up its membership, and
he tweeted after the indictment to wonder why the NCAA hadn’t held Spanier
“accountable” based on the Freeh Report’s findings. Spanier, of course, is
entitled to a presumption of innocence on the criminal charges. But the NCAA doesn’t
use such a standard, and routinely punishes student-athletes on the basis of
far less damaging information than what was presented about Spanier in the
Freeh Report.

Second:
the Penn State faculty leadership, especially the University Faculty Senate. In
late August, more than two dozen former leaders of the senate issued an open
letter sharply criticizing the Freeh Report.
“As a document in
which evidence, facts, and logical argument are marshaled to support
conclusions and recommendations,” they wrote, “the Freeh Report fails badly. On
a foundation of scant evidence, the report adds layers of conjecture and
supposition to create a portrait of fault, complicity, and malfeasance that
could well be at odds with the truth.”
As with many critics of the Freeh Report,
these faculty leaders declined to identify any errors in the report, even as
they used space in their letter to celebrate their research abilities.–“as scientists
and scholars.”

Now, however, the state Attorney General
has filed charges along lines very similar to those identified in the Freeh
Report. Will these scientists and scholars have the courage of their
convictions and denounce the indictment as they denounced the Freeh Report? I’m
guessing they’ll choose silence on this occasion.

Critics of Freeh Report Fire Blanks

Graham_Spanier_091305110347.jpg

Over the past several weeks, high-profile criticisms of the Freeh Report, which examined the Penn State administration’s failed response to a report of inappropriate sexual behavior by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, generated more heat than light. Nearly identical missives from a handful of renegade PSU trustees, the family of ex-coach Joe Paterno, and a handful of former Penn State football players all slammed the Freeh Report as biased and filled with factual errors–but were unable to identify even one specific way in which the report was biased, or point out even one factual error that made the critics’ case.

In the last few days, however, two new attacks–one explicit, one implied–on the report have emerged. An authorized biography of Paterno by sportswriter Joe Posnaski bent over backwards to present the late coach in a favorable light and imply that the Freeh Report’s claim that Paterno knowingly participated in a cover-up couldn’t be true. And Penn State’s disgraced ex-president, Graham Spanier, kicked off a public relations campaign with two interviews and a press conference by his attorney. Ironically, through their weaknesses, these ostensibly more substantial critiques of the Freeh Report wound up further confirming the report’s conclusions.

Continue reading Critics of Freeh Report Fire Blanks

Penn Is Cutting Back on White Male Faculty

Columbia is not the only elite university
promoting exclusionary hiring in a big way. The University of Pennsylvania has
just announced
that it will spend $100 million over the next five years “on hiring and
retaining more diverse faculty members.”

George Leef asks a very
good question
: “Why does it cost so much money to simply
screen out all applicants who don’t have the ancestry or other characteristics
that make them diverse'”? In any event $100 million should buy a lot of
“diversity,” whatever the reason and in fact whatever “diversity” is.

Penn President Amy
Gutmann said that data is “not available to track our progress for … types of
diversity [other than racial and gender diversity], but that in no way
diminishes the importance of all types of diversity to Penn’s educational
mission and the vitality of its campus.”

Gutmann also said that “all of those who are
employed by Penn are asked to self-identify their race and gender after they
are hired.” Left unexplained was how Penn proposed to determine the race and
gender of the new “diversity” applicants before they were hired, which
you’d think would be necessary for a hiring program whose purpose is to
increase gender-based and pigmentary 
“diversity.” (See here for an almost humorous example from my experience of a department that did not
avoid buying
a pig in a poke
in attempting to make a “diversity” hire.)

Also left unexplained is how Penn can attempt
to hire and retain more “diverse” faculty members (defined whether wholly or
partly by race, gender, and ethnicity) without running afoul of its own
embarrassingly clear and forthright non-discrimination policies. Its Policy
of Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Nondiscrimination
,
for example, could hardly be more clear:

Penn is committed to
ensuring that all academic programs (except where age or sex are bona fide
occupational qualifications), including social and recreational programs, and
services are administered without regard to an individual’s protected-class
status. 

Penn is also
committed to ensuring that its personnel and other employment decisions are
made without regard to an individual’s protected-class status….

The blatant conflict between current practice
and stated principle is enough to have led at least one observer (and one I
know quite well) to comment on Preferences,
Principles, and Hypocrisy in Higher Education
.

In her pre-presidential scholarly career Penn
President Amy Gutmann wrote widely about race,
multiculturalism, and affirmative action
. Perhaps in one of
her now frequent
conversations with the press
she can explain how it is
possible for the university to make a special effort to hire and retain “more
diverse faculty members” — especially a $100 million effort — while studiously
treating all prospective and current employees “without regard” to their race,
gender, or ethnicity.

After Awful Tragedies,
The Campus Bureaucracy Expands

paterno-and-sandusky.jpeg

The Boston Herald is a scrappy, politically conservative
tabloid that normally rants and rails against excessive regulations and good-for-nothing
government bureaucrats. Yet in an editorial on the Penn State child
molestations, titled “Keeping campuses safe,” the Herald called for a heavily expanded
bureaucratic response. It excoriated “the football program staff” of Penn State
who, quoting assertions in the Freeh Report, “had not been
trained in their Clery Act responsibilities and most had never heard of the
Clery Act,” a 1990 federal statute requiring colleges and universities to
report crimes that happen on or near their campuses. It is named for Jeanne
Clery, a Lehigh University freshman raped and murdered in her dorm in 1986.

Statutes named after victims of rare but spectacularly awful crimes are
especially likely to be overkill laws that cause unnecessary added bureaucracy and
dismal unforeseen consequences. Yet here was the Herald, which knows better, on the side of more regulation
when it came to universities. The army of advocates for increased
administration in higher education’s already bloated bureaucracies has landed
on the Penn State scandal with considerable gusto. Self-interest motivates many
of those who argue for more regulations and increased numbers of administrators
at Penn State, including the increased use of professionals who provide
“training” for campus student life administrators. 

Continue reading After Awful Tragedies,
The Campus Bureaucracy Expands

The NCAA Revokes the Past

Joe
Paterno’s statue at Penn
State
was taken down not
because it was “divisive,” at the university’s new president foolishly said,
but because Paterno was morally obtuse and unworthy of the honor. So far so
good. But what should we think of the NCAA’s flabbergasting decision to erase
history–vacating 13 years of football wins? As a former Penn State
running back said, this decision means he lost every game he ever played. Why
did he ever go back for a third year after playing for two 0-12 teams?
Apparently the NCAA thinks that punishing athletes for off-field malfeasance
that had nothing to do with on-field performance is a perfect way to get back
at Paterno. Why not take the logical next step–vacating Paterno’s contracts, so
he never did coach at Penn
State
or maybe revoking
his death certificate so he can be attacked in person? Makes sense to me.

Duke Didn’t Come Clean, Penn State Did

In 2006,
the Duke lacrosse case featured an extraordinarily high-profile intersection of
college athletics, academic culture, and the criminal justice system. Six years later, the tragedy at Penn State far
surpassed events in Durham in the annals of campus scandal. There were clear
differences between the two cases (chiefly, of course, that at Penn State,
horrifying crimes occurred, while in the Duke lacrosse case the only criminals
were rogue DA Nifong, who spent a day in jail for contempt, and accuser Crystal
Mangum, currently awaiting trial on a murder charge). But both instances were
characterized by a massive administrative breakdown–in Penn State’s case, based
on an unhealthy degree of power held by the football program; in Duke’s case,
based on the administration’s apparent fear of alienating race/class/gender
faculty on campus.

Continue reading Duke Didn’t Come Clean, Penn State Did

The Freeh Report and the Failure of Trustees

sandusky-paterno1.jpg

The past few months have been troubling for those who
believe that Trustees must exercise more aggressive oversight roles on today’s
college and university campuses. At the University of Virginia, the board of regents (temporarily,
it turns out) sacked President Teresa Sullivan, yet struggled to articulate a
reason for doing so. Then, when they did so–seeming to demand more on-line
classes, seeming to criticize the German and Classics Departments–the board’s
vision conflicted with defenders of high standards. At University of Southern
Maine, meanwhile, the board stood aside amidst a
slow-motion coup against President Selma Botman–an effort that aimed, as one of
the plotters privately admitted, to show that “the faculty really are the
center of the universe.”

Continue reading The Freeh Report and the Failure of Trustees

The Moral and Institutional Failure at Penn State

Today the law firm of Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan (FSS) released its report on Penn State’s negligence in the case of Jerry Sandusky’s extensive abuse of minors. After a seven-month investigation, The Freeh Report assigns greater blame to Joe Paterno than was originally assumed, claiming that in conjunction with Penn State’s President, Senior Vice-President for Finance and Business, and Athletic director, Paterno intentionally hid information about Sandusky’s abusive behavior from the relevant higher-ups, and in doing so, allowed Sandusky to continue engaging in these activities. What can we learn from these terrible revelations?

Continue reading The Moral and Institutional Failure at Penn State

Second Thoughts About Joe Paterno

Joe Paterno.jpg

Some Penn State alumni, outraged over the Board of Trustees peremptory firing of Coach Joe Paterno, are organizing a campaign to elect three new trustees.  The objective of Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship is, ultimately, to oust the current Board.  The Board fired Paterno, two University officials and the University President for not responding forcefully to accusations of child sexual abuse in the football-team shower room.  Many alumni, including hundreds who met with the new President at hotels in the Pittsburgh, New York City, and Philadelphia areas recently, were outraged that the Board had not verified the accusations before acting.

According to indignant alumni, the Penn State Board of Trustees confused two separate, unequal cases.  One case was possible perjury before a grand jury by Tim Curley, the Athletic Director, and Gary Schultz, the senior vice-president in charge of the Penn State Police.  The second case was the charge against Jerry Sandusky that he possibly sexually molested a young boy in the Penn State football-team shower room.

Curley and Schultz were suspected of lying to conceal discreditable behavior damaging to the reputation of the Penn State football program.  Guilty or innocent, they face enormous legal costs to mount a defense against the perjury charge.  If convicted, they will probably go to prison.  But the evidence for the indictment for perjury is weak.  It rests entirely on the grand jury testimony of assistant football coach Mike McQueary in the fall of 2011 about what he saw nine years earlier when he was in his early twenties.  McQueary remembered being shocked when he accidentally observed in the shower room of the Penn State football team what appeared to be a former coach sexually molesting a pre-adolescent boy.  Here is how the Washington Post described McQueary’s account of the 2002 incident when called as a witness in a District Court hearing last December 16:

In his testimony at the preliminary hearing for Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, McQueary said he believes he saw Sandusky sexually molesting a boy in the shower but was not 100 percent sure it was intercourse.

McQueary said he peeked into the shower several times and saw Sandusky with his hands wrapped around the waist of a boy he estimated to be 10 or 12 years old. He said both were naked, the boy was facing the wall, and that the last time he looked in, Sandusky and the boy had separated.

“I know they saw me,” McQueary said. “They looked directly in my eye, both of them.”

Tim Curley and Gary Schultz have both insisted publicly that, when McQueary told them in 2002 what had disturbed him, he did not mention anal rape, as some newspaper accounts reported.  McQueary had told his story first to Coach Paterno in 2002, and Coach Paterno’s recollection of their meeting characterized McQueary’s report similarly.  Here is what Joe Paterno said on November 6, 2011, about their 2002 meeting:

As my grand jury testimony stated, I was informed in 2002 by an assistant coach that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of our locker room facility. It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the Grand Jury report. Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As Coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators.

The grand jury accepted McQueary’s graphic report as a faithful account of what happened and what he told about it to Paterno, to the Athletic Director, Tim Curley, and to Gary Schultz, the senior vice-president.  Curley, Schultz, and Paterno remembered the conversations with McCreary differently.  According to all three of them, McQueary said nothing about anal rape, only that Sandusky and a preadolescent boy were showering together in the shower room and “horsing around.”  Because the grand jury believed that McQueary was telling the truth and that Curley and Schultz were lying to minimize disreputable behavior at the University, it indicted Curley and Schultz for perjury.  Whether or not they committed perjury has nothing to do with whatever Sandusky did or did not do to a boy in the shower room.  (The grand jury did not explain why it did not also indict Coach Joe Paterno for perjury; his report of his conversation with McQueary was identical to the accounts given by Curley and Schultz.)

Questionable Indictments

The Board of Trustees apparently considered the indictments of Sandusky, Curley, and Schultz evidence of guilt.  On the evening of November 9, the Vice-Chairman of the Board, John Surma Jr., made a vague public statement explaining why the Board fired Joe Paterno, the Athletic Director to whom he reported, the vice-president to whom the Penn State Police force reported, and the president of Penn State University itself.

We thought that because of the difficulties that engulfed our university, and they are grave, that it is necessary to make a change in the leadership to set a course for a new direction.

A jury would have to believe – despite an absence of corroborating evidence — that Coach Paterno and the two administrators lied independently to a grand jury about what McQueary told them in 2002 or conspired with one another to lie in order to protect the University from bad publicity.  The jury would also have to believe that reputable University officials chose to cover up the rape of a ten-year-old boy.  More plausible is faulty memories rather than lies.  McQueary stumbled on what seemed to him improper and upsetting sexual behavior between a coach and a pre-adolescent boy, but he did not remember exactly what went on nine years earlier.  Surely the defense attorneys will raise questions about how McQueary reacted to what he saw and what he heard during the 2002 incident.  He did not claim to have heard the boy cry out, “Help!” although he said that the boy saw him. He did not claim to have himself shouted, “What’s going on here?”  All he did was peek into the shower room three times and then go home and telephone his father.  Paterno, Curley, and Schultz all deny receiving explicit information about an anal rape.

The perjury indictments have little to do with football at Penn State, only with the accusation that two reputable University administrators lied to a grand jury (for which they are potentially liable to be given long prison terms).  The collateral damage of the perjury indictments – inflicted by the Board of Trustees — was the firing of Coach Paterno and of Penn State President Graham Spanier. Perhaps a prudent Board of Trustees should not have rushed to administer punishments.  As one of my former students, now a senior executive of an organization in the professional sports field commented about the uproar at Penn State in an email:

Where is the adult in the room who says, “Hold on. We have a legal process and we need to follow it in the most routine cases and even for the most hideous ones. This case is no exception.”

The American system of criminal justice does not usually imitate the Queen in Alice in Wonderland, who enunciated the principle of “Sentence first, verdict afterwards.”  Maybe current members of the Board never read that criminological classic or understood that Lewis Carroll was ridiculing arbitrary punishments.  Maybe Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship should distribute copies of Alice in Wonderland to all members of the Board of Trustees as well as to the new members they succeed in electing.

Penn State, Trustees, and a Lack of Transparency

Last week, the incomparable Anne Neal penned
a blistering op-ed
regarding how the Penn State trustees handled the
allegations against former football coach Jerry Sandusky. The ACTA head argued that
the unfolding events of the Penn State sports
scandal show a major university that has been more interested in protecting
itself than in educating students or serving the public. The institutional
reckoning must begin and end with the governing board. It is responsible for
the actions of university leaders, and its members owe taxpayers and students
accountability and transparency.”

Continue reading Penn State, Trustees, and a Lack of Transparency

Paterno: Sentence First, Verdict Afterwards

Why did the Board of Trustees of Penn State University put a humiliating end to the unblemished career of 84-year-old football coach, Joe Paterno?  In announcing the Board’s decision to fire him on the evening of November 9, the Vice-Chairman of the Board, John Surma Jr., spoke vaguely about the need to “make a change in the leadership.”

Continue reading Paterno: Sentence First, Verdict Afterwards

The Penn State Trustees React to the Stench

The Board of Trustees acted properly in cleaning house at Penn State, by firing president Graham Spanier and longtime football coach Joe Paterno. The inaction of the duo, along with similar conduct from now-suspended Athletic Director Tim Curley and now-retired VP Gary Schultz has exposed the university to potentially massive legal liability, as well as prompting an extraordinary public relations backlash.

Continue reading The Penn State Trustees React to the Stench