It’s sort of hard to believe that folks could have behaved even more poorly in the events surrounding the coverup of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky’s alleged sexual abuse and assault of children he met through his Second Mile charity. But as his trial is underway, it appears my beliefs have been confounded: Pennsylvania’s attorney general is now suggesting that former Penn State vice president Gary Schultz kept a file on Sandusky, and that in emails between him and former Penn State president Graham Spanier suggest that university officials thought it would be more “humane” not to report Sandusky than to report him. The full report from a local CBS station is here:
There’s a debate to be had about whether it makes sense for universities to build enormous sports edifices in their midst and to become reliant on the revenue they provide. But if they’re going to make that decision, I think we can all agree that for those institutions to survive, university administrators need to distinguish between athletic programs and the people who run them. And while I want to see the full text of the emails, the idea that not reporting Sandusky would have been the “humane” thing seems grotesque in a way that would be almost impossible to justify even in context, and reflects a profound failure of judgement.
The idea that Sandusky deserved consideration more than the victims’ families deserved justice or that the community deserved a chance to have him go through a fair trial is humane only in a system that values the powerful over the powerless, or the few among the many. Even if your values are so distorted as to put concern for Sandusky before other considerations, wouldn’t the humane thing to do to be to separate him from his capacity to do harm to others, and if he’s mentally ill, to get him treated? Someone who concludes that not reporting Sandusky is the humane things to do seems to lack the moral credentials to effectively administer a large organization, particularly one tasked with preparing young people to become solid citizens. And making the decision not to report Sandusky reveals a bizarre lack of business sense: silence is not the same thing as containing rot.