Lessons from Penn State

Friday, July 13, 2012

Jonathan Mahler, contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine and author of the Kindle Single Death Comes to Happy Valley, talks about the findings of the Penn State report issued yesterday, and what they may tell us about other top athletic departments.

 Read the Freeh Report in Full Below

Freeh Report of the Actions of Penn State University


Jonathan Mahler

Comments [21]

Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

It's largely about the infusion of a vast amount of cash from the commercialization of student "amateur" sports, college, high school and now even down to middle school. Jane Jacobs suggested that sports and its commercialization were essentially “immiscible.” For links to discussions on this see Noticing New York’s: Friday, July 13, 2012, An Additional Heaping Helping of Sports Glummary: Penn State Scandal Investigative Report- Power of College Football Out Of Control.

Jul. 13 2012 09:22 PM
Sid from New Brunswick, NJ

WTF is a "Kindle Single"? Would that ARTICLE?! Jeez. Enough with the stupid free corporate ad jargon!
So are reporters now releasing "singles"? I thought chefs were the new rock stars.

Jul. 13 2012 10:59 AM
Karen from NYC

We should not be surprised at the power of the football institution and culture at colleges, especially in the big football schools. While the abuse and cover-up of the Penn child abuse is horrible, how many women have been raped by football players over the years at various universities, and have then been pressured not to report the rape to the civil authorities, but keep it within the school, often to be handled by the dorm authorities, etc. as though the conflict was about a noisy stereo or exam cheating. They had to saacrifice justice for the good of the school and football team. These women were then confronted with the situation of being in classes with their rapists, etc. The rapist-players got off with no punishment.

Jul. 13 2012 10:57 AM
rose-ellen from jackson heights

Everywhere this penn state sex abuse scandal is discussed the narrative always includes protecting the janitor .Why is that? Why is it "understandable" that they[he] would be too afraid to report what they saw which was "so horrible", to the police-if it was indeed so horrible? This narrative of indignation towards Paterno and others for covering up abuse but "understanding" why the janitor[s] who is the acutal witness to something "so horrible" but also covered up-is as much part of a narrative that is still willing to cover up and protect the adults. And why are we not told what the janitor[s] actually witnessed? If it was so horrible then why does the media narrative let the janitor off the hook?Paterno did not witness this "so horrible" incident in the showers-he heard second hand and reported it to his superior.It was an allegation-hearsay- coming to him- but it was something a janitor actually witnessed.

Jul. 13 2012 10:35 AM
Zuwena from Manhattan

What shocks me is that you, Brian, and the guest are "shocked" at the existence of this culture and how things were run at Penn State. Why or how is this different from other aspects of our culture involving the financial system, the mortgage mess, the Catholic Church, and the current government system. I, for one, disagree with Freeh that we have a system of "checks and balances" in the Government when what it has gotten us is a pledge by the Republicans to destroy the President and the absolute gridlock in the Congress. The motivations may be different among the groups and institution but the way it plays out to the detriment of the larger society is the same. We are all suffering.

Jul. 13 2012 10:31 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Is anyone looking into how it goes from "our players won't get any special treatment, they'll live in regular dorms, etc." to protecting sexual abusers? Did Paterno never mean it in the 1st place, or did it happen gradually, or something in between? Does it happen the same way in different places?

Jul. 13 2012 10:29 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

What is studied at Penn State, football? Can you get a degree in football study?

Jul. 13 2012 10:28 AM
Hugh Sansom

At sports schools, it's coaches who get away with crimes. At Harvard and other prestige schools, it's professors. Start looking at the prestige schools, and you'll find plenty. Start with Harvard.

Jul. 13 2012 10:26 AM
ellen from park slope

We also need to do a better job of helping our children to talk back to authority, whether a priest or a football coach, a teacher or a relative.

Jul. 13 2012 10:26 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

I agree with much of what you wrote Truth & Beauty....but I disagree somewhat with your statement "but with individual human beings whose moral compass is nearly non-existent."

That's too simplistic and that is the slippery slope we fall prey to when we think that we would be better under the circumstances. Probably the people involved DID have moral compasses, but when something like this occurs, the complexity of social bonds and tribalism kicks in and we begin to come up with small justifications and compromises that we are not even aware of, to cover up and to get the wagons in a circle.

It's more insidious than you think, and the first step to doing the same thing is thinking you wouldn't.

Jul. 13 2012 10:25 AM
Andrea from Rockland

Educational systems in the United States need to make a paradigm shift, away from extreme sports and toward music education. Music can help heal the trauma many people live with every day.

Jul. 13 2012 10:23 AM
Andrea from Briarwood, NY

Did any of the students/players have knowledge?

Jul. 13 2012 10:22 AM

It's not only in large sports programs. The small liberal arts school that I went to claimed that no one on campus had ever been raped. A friend of my was raped by another student, and went to the school officials. They pressured her into not reporting it to the police. University self-policing is problematic because of the pressure to uphold the good name of the school.

Jul. 13 2012 10:21 AM

It's important to note that this report was commissioned by the trustees and the outcome seems to be exactly what they would want: no culpability for trustees and chastisement of athletics which they view as a power threat. hard to imagine no trustees knew about this.

Jul. 13 2012 10:20 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

And how does a culture that revolves so much around football at some of our elite universities going to help us compete in the world economy in the future? What are we going to do, play China to see who gets a manufacturing contract?

Instead, it's just another example of how our society & culture is devolving more and more to "entertainment."

Jul. 13 2012 10:20 AM

why is the catholic church getting a free ride? all the media outrage is directed at one individual institution. what about a universal institution of child abusers that no one is mentioning?

Jul. 13 2012 10:16 AM
Kate from WAshington Heights

Hi Brian - Yes, the people truly at fault is Sandusky and those at the top - but I am enraged that any janitor who WITNESSED something so horrific thinks his job is more important than the life and safety of not only that one boy but all the others who anyone would know must have also been being raped.

If the people who witnessed these things had gone to the police, did they believe that the police would have done nothing? I can only understand their protecting their jobs if they had good reason to believe that the POLICE would not have stopped Sandusky. I understand that they believed that the University would do nothing, but why not go around them straight to the cops?

Also - I am disturbed that the media keeps referring to Sandusky's actions as "abuse." What Sandusky did was not "abuse" - it was brutal rape.

Jul. 13 2012 10:15 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I'm sorry to say that I don't find fault so much with the University or the football culture, but with individual human beings whose moral compass is nearly non-existent. Would they have failed to act on the allegations if it were their own children who had been the victims? Does being part of college level football abrogate their responsibility as moral human beings? United States citizens?

There is a problem in our culture, in general, of people whose narcissism, greed and self-interest is so great that no matter what crimes, misdemeanors and felonies they observe, they can only think of themselves and the possible repercussions to their own lives. What about the children whose lives have been irreparably damaged by Mr. Sandusky's behavior? No one thought that it might be better to report the abuse, regardless of its personal consequences, than to permit this "man" to continue to harm young children.

The whole situation sickens me.

Jul. 13 2012 10:15 AM
BK from NJ

Is anyone surprised that a powerful coach was essentially running the campus? Given the status of state and municipal budgets these days - we can look at all 50 states and find that in probably 40 of them that a basketball or football coach is the highest paid public employee in the state.
If Joe Paterno- the guy who "did it right", got his hands this dirty to keep his program above the fray, I shudder to think about other programs and coaches who are already known to have no scruples.

Jul. 13 2012 10:13 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

It's pretty simple: The school should obey the law. And I thought those who work with children are mandated to report abuse.

Jul. 13 2012 10:11 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Can the guest please break down the proof that Paterno and whomever else knew?

Jul. 13 2012 10:09 AM

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