You asked via Twitter for Penn State Alums & fans to comment on what is going on in Happy Valley. As most of my commentary has fallen on deaf ears I thought I would take the opportunity. First let me preface with this; I was born and raised in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. I was a student at Penn State from 1995-1998. I joined the Air Force in 1998 and my last duty station, Tinker AFB, let me here in Oklahoma when I separated in 2005. In addition to my ties to the University I have a much deeper personal connection to those whom have been victimized here. I read the entire 23 page Grand Jury presentment this past Saturday before I made any comments to anyone personally or on social media. I wanted to be grounded in the available facts before I said anything. Since then I have had many thoughts, some of which I will try to summarize.
The media spotlight on Joe Paterno is singularly focused and is a tremendous failing of journalism. The criminal versus moral argument is a good question to ask, but no one was in the room with Paterno while his Graduate Assistant and now Wide Receivers' Coach McQueary spoke with him about an incident he witnessed in the Lasch facility apart from McQueary's father. In the end a Grand Jury determined Paterno committed no criminal act. Everyone has the benefit of viewing that one meeting through the 20/20 lenses of hindsight. Joe Paterno has admitted he wished he had done more now that he as well knows the facts and expressed remorse. To my knowledge he is the only named individual involved to have expressed regret for his personal conduct. He has been toppled by a relentless group- thought mass media who put enough pressure on The University's Board of Trustees to make them do what was "in the best interest of The University", at least from an immediate public relations standpoint. Additionally I watched all 22 minutes of the available footage of the Press Conference where Paterno's termination was announced as well. In that press conference the board was asked if they had any information not available to the public that led them to terminate Paterno immediately. Their answer was "no". Yet after Paterno and now former University President Graham Spanier were gone three people retained their ties to the University who should not: McQueary, Athletic Director Curley and Sandusky himself.
Curley (along with Spanier and Shutlz) violated 23Pa.C.S § 6319 for failing to report the suspected sexual abused of a child as "persons who run a school". The Grand Jury at least levied that charge at Curley & Shultz. In addition Curley and McQueary at a minimum (and potentially Paterno depending on what was truly said that Saturday) stand in violation of the Curley Act (20 U.S.C. § 1092(f)) for further failing to report the crime. The US Department of Education has announced an investigation into those violations. Hopefully the Justice Department will assume control of it soon.
However one thing stands out to me from the Grand Jury Presentment that no journalist seems to want to talk about. Victim 6's mother went to the police in 1998 after her son had relayed the details of his encounter with Sandusky in the showers of Holuba Hall. An investigation by Ronald Shreffler started which during monitored phone conversations and interviews with Sandusky he put into evidence statments from Sandusky himself, that he had in fact showered with the boy and had "hugged" him with both were naked. Additionally Shreffler could not obtain a vow from Sandusky that he would not do anything similar again despite Sandusky's admission that it was wrong. Shreffler testified that he was instructed to close the investigation by the Director of Campus Police, Thomas Harmon. Then Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar decided there would be no criminal charges. Gricar subsequently disappeared in 2005 and was declared dead this past July. The facts surrounding 1998 raise questions:
Journalists have repeatedly chastised Paterno for his failure to take further action beyond his notification of Curley after the conversation with McQueary. Why is there no focus on where others have failed to the same? I continually hear the same journalists cite "truth for the victims" as the motivation for going after Paterno however they won't even mention the possibility of a cover-up initiated in 1998 that could have put a stop to all of this much sooner.
I am appalled at what has happened at Penn State. I am not defending the actions of anyone at the University. However I still believe journalists have an ethical obligation to seek the truth. The persistent focus on one man's small part of such a large scandal is a moral failing of journalists in my opinion. The same type of moral failing they have continually accused Paterno of. The repeated excuse that "Paterno's iconic status cannot be ignored" is idiocy as are the statements that he is/was "the most powerful man on campus". A group of people called The Board of Trustees proved the latter statement false last night.
That same Board is failing the University while they claim to do what is in it's best interest. It cannot be argued that the firing of Paterno wasn't the right call from a public relations standpoint. However is the continued employment of McQueary & Curley or the University's intent to pay the defense costs of Curley & Shultz also in the "best interest of The University?" No way. Prior to his ouster Spanier banned Sandusky from campus, but has his Professor Emeritus status been stripped? Is that also in "the best interests of The University"? Some will argue that Sandusky, McQueary & Curley are entitled to due process, however that is something that Joe Paterno did not receive.
In the final analysis everyone here needs to remember this is not a sports story. This is a story of pre-pubescent children being sexually abused by a man who set up a system through a charity to hunt and prey on them. This story is not about Joe Paterno. This is about the criminal actions of a sick man named Sandusky and potentially the people around him that facilitated a cover-up of his actions.
The students who took the streets at State College last night were angry and understandably so at the ouster of a legend. I do not condone their violent acts. What they should have done was marched peacefully right up to the news fans, encircled them, and demanded that journalists do their jobs, look beyond one man, and embark on a quest for the actual truth here, for all of those who have been victims.
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