When you study the evidence presented thus far in the Sandusky child rape trial, notably including a grand jury report and Day 1 testimony from Victim 4 and Day 2 testimony from Victim 1 and Assistant Coach Mike McQueary, it is clear that Jerry Sandusky used classic grooming techniques and his all-access pass on the Penn State campus to lure and rape his victims.
What will hopefully be just as clear before the trial ends, as is already being represented in the state’s case, is that Jerry Sandusky did not act alone. He was protected by university officials in order to maintain their prestigious football program and all of the riches and power that it provided them.
This had a devastating effect on the lives of many more victims of crimes which would have been prevented if university officials, including former President Graham Spanier, former Athletic Director Tim Curley, and former Senior Vice President Gary Schultz, had properly reported Sandusky to state authorities and banned him from the PSU campus for life.
In 2001, then-Graduate Assistant Mike McQueary reported to the university that he witnessed Sandusky sexually assaulting a 10 year old boy in the locker room showers. McQueary testified to the court today that he heard a “skin-on-skin smacking sound” as he saw Sandusky thrusting his hips into the backside of the naked child whose hands were up against the wall. He noted that he had no doubt that he was witnessing anal rape, a detail that university officials claimed was undetermined last fall.
(For additional perspective on other options McQueary could have considered when he witnessed the child being raped, including calling the cops directly, see: Texas father kills man who tried to molest his 4-year-old daughter, says sheriff.)
Instead of rushing to protect a traumatized and injured child, Spanier wrote to his colleagues that it would be “humane” not to report Sandusky to authorities about the sexual assault (see: Graham Spanier may face charges over e-mails about Sandusky). This followed a similar failure to report to state authorities in 1998 when the county prosecutor inexplicably took a pass.
This egregious act of negligence on the part of Spanier is a reflection of a power culture gone mad.
Unfortunately, it appears that Penn State has not learned its lesson, which is exactly why they are in the midst of a crisis without end. From the outset, the university mishandled its communications and appeared to be paralyzed and doubled-over in a bunker (see: Penn State hurt by media blunders, communications expert says).
In our hyper litigious culture, you might appreciate why Penn State has chosen to remain largely silent about the Sandusky case over the many months of the scandal, apart from a couple of disastrous alumni meetings and a few public statements.
Today’s university officials may delude themselves into believing that silence will help their legal positioning, but it also reflects that they are operating in the same diseased power culture from which Spanier and his cohorts chose to hide a known child rapist on the university campus.
Instead, the university should be embracing transparency by disclosing what is known about the cover-up. Then they can begin rebuilding trust by encouraging anyone with knowledge of Sandusky’s crimes to come forward to authorities and direct the campus community to champion the cause of the victims instead of chastising them for speaking the truth.
Crisis management can only be successful if an organization is willing to bare all and acknowledge the systemic internal breakdowns, on substance and style, which brought them to the crisis. It would appear that Penn State is a long way from such introspection, and reinforces the conclusion that the university, including their executives and current members of their board of trustees, knew or should have known about Sandusky.
A co-conspirator is part of the problem, and thus the crisis will continue.