[Warning: Adult content in this post; Updated: 3:26 pm, 11/10]
When the announcement was made at a news conference that the 84-year-old Mr. Paterno would not coach another game, a gasp went up from the crowd of several hundred reporters, students and camera people who were present. – NYT
Why was Paterno fired? For failing to take action after reports—from a direct witness employed by Paterno—that Jerry Sandusky, ex-defensive coordinator under Paterno, had molested young boys both before and after the coordinator’s 2002 retirement. In the words of the same NYT article (bolds mine):
Mr. Sandusky had been a key part of the football program, but prosecutors have said he was a serial pedophile who was allowed to add victims over the years in part because the university he had served was either unable or unwilling to stop him.
Mr. Sandusky has been charged with sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year span, and two top university officials — Tim Curley, the athletic director, and Gary Schultz, the senior vice president for finance and business — have been charged with perjury and failing to report to authorities what they knew of the allegations. Neither Mr. Paterno nor Mr. Spanier was charged in the case, though questions have been raised about if they did as much as they could to stop Mr. Sandusky.
It gets worse. There were graphic reports of what Sandusky did, when he did it, with whom, and what witnesses saw. Here are those reports (bolds mine):
Upon learning about a suspected 2002 assault by Mr. Sandusky on a young boy in the football building’s showers, Mr. Paterno redirected the graduate assistant who witnessed the incident to the athletic director, rather than notifying the police. Mr. Paterno said the graduate assistant who reported the assault, Mike McQueary, said only that something disturbing had happened that was perhaps sexual in nature. Mr. McQueary testified that he saw Mr. Sandusky having anal sex with the boy.
Let me see if I got this right. Paterno’s own graduate assistant told Paterno that he (meaning McQueary) saw Paterno’s famed coach, Sandusky, having ANAL SEX with a BOY, and Paterno only went to the athletic director. Not the police.
Sandusky, furthermore, left the program in glory in 2002. He was celebrated on Penn State’s field, with Paterno’s approval, after retirement. Paterno lauded Sandusky’s accomplishments knowing that Sandusky had anal sex with a little boy.
McQueary, by all accounts, does not appear to be a glory hound. Indeed, he reported the criminal activity of one of his supervisors—while a contingent employee on the coaching rungs—to his higher-ups. Here’s an account of that report from another NYT piece (bolds mine):
When Mike McQueary went to Penn State Coach Joe Paterno’s house on the morning of March 2, 2002, he was a graduate assistant — the lowest rung on the coaching ladder beneath Paterno. Still, McQueary, 28 years old and a football lifer, had aspirations of one day becoming a head coach, maybe even at Penn State.
A former quarterback for Paterno, he had once been a fan attraction for his shock of bright orange hair and his State College roots. Popular and known for an easygoing, collegial manner, he was beginning the baby steps toward his dream job.
Nine years later, what McQueary told Paterno at that meeting — he had seen a former senior football coach molesting a young boy in the football building’s showers. …
According to findings laid out by state investigators, only two Penn State employees were known to have witnessed Sandusky committing a sex crime: a janitor, who now has dementia and is not competent to testify, and McQueary.
Now, his account of what happened in 2002 (bolds mine):
On Friday, March 1, 2002, in an episode that those close to McQueary say left him shocked and confused — and that would return to haunt his life and the fortunes of his university years later — he entered the locker room in Penn State’s Lasch Football Building at about 9:30 p.m. to put a new pair of shoes in his locker and pick up some recruiting tapes, according to the report of the grand jury that investigated the allegations involving Sandusky. Coaches commonly keep late hours but not so much in the off-season months, like March. Besides, the lights were not on in the offices, but toward the locker room. That is not usual. And a shower was running.
According to the report, McQueary heard “rhythmic, slapping sounds,” which he believed to be those of sexual activity. He walked to his locker, opened it and put his sneakers inside. He then turned his head and looked into the shower.
He has said under oath that he saw Sandusky raping what appeared to be a 10-year-old boy. He immediately left, met with his father and determined he would report the incident to Paterno, according to prosecutors. A person familiar with his account said McQueary did not spare the details when he met with Paterno.
Fastforward to last night (excerpts from the first NYT story linked, bolds mine).
After the announcements about Mr. Spanier and Mr. Paterno, the news conference immediately took on a frenzied and somewhat vitriolic tenor. Angry questions were shouted at Mr. Surma, who responded to them while the other board members sat behind him and to his sides. One cameraman repeatedly said, “Your campus is going to burn tonight.” …
Scores of students poured into the streets downtown in the immediate aftermath of the news conference. Many held up cellphones to take pictures and others blew vuvuzelas and air horns. A few climbed lampposts, tried to topple street signs and knocked over trash cans. Others set off firecrackers from the roofs of buildings, and a television news truck was flipped on its side. A lamppost was torn down and police pepper-sprayed some in the crowd. …
“I just don’t think it’s right that JoePa’s losing his job,” Corey Davis, a 23-year-old senior studying international politics, said. “All the facts aren’t out, we don’t even know he’s done anything wrong. Joe’s the fall guy.” …
A number of students went to the coach’s house, where Mr. Paterno and his wife, Sue, spoke with them.
Dressed in a baggy gray pullover sweater, Mr. Paterno waved his hand and started to walk back inside. A student yelled, “We are Penn State,” the frequent rallying cry. Mr. Paterno stopped and turned around to say: “That’s right. We are Penn State, don’t ever forget it.”
Many students have shown their support for Mr. Paterno with large rallies outside his home and at Old Main. After he was fired, thousands of people gathered in front of the administration building, throwing objects and chanting “We want Joe!”
Here is more from a third NYT article (bolds mine, article later updated):
“I think the point people are trying to make is the media is responsible for Joe Pa going down,” said a freshman, Mike Clark, 18, adding that he believed that Mr. Paterno had met his legal and moral responsibilities by telling university authorities about an accusation….
Four girls in heels danced on the roof of a parked sport utility vehicle and dented it when they fell after a group of men shook the vehicle. A few, like Justin Muir, 20, a junior studying hotel and restaurant management, threw rolls of toilet paper into the trees.
“It’s not fair,” Mr. Muir said hurling a white ribbon. “The board is an embarrassment to our school and a disservice to the student population.” …
Greg Becker, 19, a freshman studying computer science, said he felt he had to vent his feelings anyway. “This definitely looks bad for our school,” he said sprinting away from a cloud of pepper spray. “I’m sure Joe Pa wouldn’t want this, but this is just an uproar now, we’re finding a way to express our anger.” …
Kathryn Simpson walked crying arm-in-arm with a friend.
“I’m here because I just need to be with the rest of my school right now,” she said. “This is devastating for us.”
This is what happens when an institution allows football and “the college life” to be the central tenets of higher education. When a school markets itself around a football program, to sell its academic programs(?) to 18-year old young men, it has to expect the consequences.
Furthermore, when you allow for, or create, an anti-academic and anti-intellectual environment on campus, one should not be surprised when reaction supersedes morality, reflection, and common sense in a crisis situation. Rather than stopping and thinking, the students are acting stupidly. They’re acting in a way that corresponds to the intellectual culture of the campus.
It is a sad day for Penn State. The students are outraged over the wrong things. They will see this over time, I hope. At that point, they and their parents should be outraged over the priorities of both their school and higher education in general.
Until the consumers demand something different, higher education will continue to cater to their desires.
I don’t think it’s mere serendipity that Andrew Hartman is pointing us, today, to a collective review of books on the state of higher education. We absolutely must attend to those assessments, keeping in mind the vivid story above about Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky, Mike McQueary, and the unnamed little boy victimized by both Sandusky and a system. – TL
[Update #1—Even an ESPN guy agrees that Paterno had to go. Here is a key passage from Mark Schlabach’s write-up: Penn State’s board of trustees fired legendary football coach Joe Paterno — effectively immediately — because it was the only decision it could make. …Finally, adults with backbones and courage made a prudent decision at Penn State. Paterno was fired because he failed miserably while making the biggest decision of his life.]
[Update #2—Chicago Tribune sportswriter David Haugh relayed the following observations this morning: Shed no tears for Joe Paterno. Save your pity for the innocent boys who will grow up into tortured men, not JoePa. …Had Paterno picked one up 13 years ago and called the most powerful law-enforcement official he knew in the state, not just the top campus cop, he might have saved innocent boys from an alleged pedophile — and quite likely his job, his school and his legacy. …So what were the Penn State students possibly thinking as they rioted all over campus and tipped over cars and a satellite truck? When will they realize, after the buzz wears off and sobering reality sinks in, that they were defending the right to cover up pedophilia? ]
[Update #3—Somehow I missed this story from yesterday’s NYT. Here are some excerpts (bolds mine): In 1998, the Penn State campus police and local law enforcement authorities investigated an allegation that Jerry Sandusky, then a prominent coach with the university’s football team, had engaged in inappropriate and perhaps sexual conduct with a boy in the football facility’s showers. A lengthy police report was generated, state prosecutors said. The boy was interviewed. A second potential victim was identified. Child welfare authorities were brought in. Sandusky confessed to showering with one or both of the children. The local district attorney was given material to consider prosecution. In the end, no prosecution was undertaken. The child welfare agency did not take action. And, according to prosecutors, the commander of the university’s campus police force told his detective, Ronald Schreffler, to close the case.]