Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Callous Disregard - A Penn State Football Story

Unless you're living in an alternate universe, you've probably heard about the Sandusky/Penn State scandal/cover-up.  Sandusky was convicted in June and will likely die in prison for raping numerous children that were in his child-advocacy program.  He was truly a sick fuck.

But on top of all that, the Freeh report was released a couple of weeks ago, which was commisioned by the Penn State Board of Trustees to investigate what Penn State administrators and those in the football program did or didn't know and do.

Turns out top administrators, including the university President, Graham Spanier, and legendary football coach, Joe Paterno, knew as early as 1998 that Sandusky was, at the very least, endangering young children:
...in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State University – Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley – repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, Penn State community, and the public at large.
Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley also failed to alert the Board of Trustees about the 1998 investigation or take any further action against Mr. Sandusky. None of them even spoke to Sandusky about his conduct. In short, nothing was done and Sandusky was allowed to continue with impunity.
As a result of the findings of the Freeh Report, the NCAA, with the agreement of the PSU Board of Trustees, took a number of corrective and punitive measures:
  • A $60 million fine, the proceeds of which were to go toward an endowment for preventing child abuse. According to the NCAA, this was the equivalent of a typical year's gross revenue from the football program.
  • A four-year postseason ban.
  • Five years' probation.
  • Vacating of all wins from 1998 to 2011--112 wins in all. This had the effect of stripping the Nittany Lions of their shared Big Ten titles in 2005 and 2008. It also removed 111 wins from Paterno's record, dropping him from first to 12th on the NCAA's all-time wins list.
  • Loss of a total of 40 initial scholarships from 2013 to 2017. During the same period, Penn State is limited to 65 total scholarships--only two more than a Division I FCS (formerly I-AA) school is allowed.
  • Penn State was required to adopt all recommendations for reform delineated in the Freeh report.
  • Penn State must enter into an "athletics integrity agreement" with the NCAA and Big Ten, appoint a university-wide athletic compliance officer and compliance council, and accept an NCAA-appointed athletic integrity monitor for the duration of its probation.
In light of what the Freeh Report characterized as "callous and shocking disregard for child victims" by the university's top football, athletic and administration officials, these sanctions seem to me to be utterly appropriate.  If anything, they don't go far enough.

It is beyond dispute that Division I football and basketball are, by virtue of the insane amount of revenue they produce, a driving force for academic programs, scholarships, non-renvenue generating athletics.  These are all good things.  And by virtue of their place in our culture, they also drive the school brand, campus unity, school pride. Again, not necessarily a bad thing.  Until you get in a situation like Penn State, where winning and the reputation of the program and brand is deemed to be more important than protecting those who can't protect themselves: children. 

The reaction by many in the Penn State community to the firing of Paterno, the Freeh Report (considering it finds Paterno among those who exhibited "callous and shocking disregard for child victims), and the NCAA sanctions is an utterly disgusting display of denialism, tribalism and martyrdom.  I suspect that it is because Penn State has been so incredibly successful in inculcating its sense of school pride and identity to its students, which up until the scandal broke, was well-deserved.  I'm not a psychologist, but my hypothesis is that to those whose identity is so closely linked to that of Penn State, to admit wrongdoing by a man who quite literally was the face of that identity and the institution behind it, is tantamount to admitting personal wrongdoing.  Indeed it seems that this mindset has parallels to the religious zealout that will not honestly consider (much less accept) the evidence for evolution - it would demolish their entire worldview.  Breaking through our mind's devices to minimize cognitive dissonance is truly a difficult feat. 

I would posit that, despite many Penn Stater's claims, they are no different from many other universities.  If this scandal were to happen to any other university with a highly prominent football or basketball program of similar degree as Penn State (i.e. Ohio State, Michigan, Texas, USC, Alabama, LSU, Duke, UNC, or any of probably several dozen others) the reaction would be largely the same.  This is the kind of reaction and behavior that atheists and skeptics should and do try to highlight as barriers to rational discourse and decision making.

While, I think many other groups would likely react similarly, that doesn't give those Penn Staters exhibiting such shameful behavior a pass.  They deserve to be and should be called out on their disgusting behavior.

These have to be (I really hope) the lowest of the bottom feeders' reaction to the NCAA sanctions:

No comment needed, I hope.

Here's a slightly less ridiculous reaction, but brimming with martyrdom by @tommy4s:

You hate us, and base your opinion on every one of us off of 5 people. [No, its your reaction to what they did; essentially dismissing it and continuing to defend your demi-god Paterno even after the facts reveal his callous disregard for the child victims.  Speak out against the cover-up and society will judge you as noble.] You called for the statue, it was removed. You called for the death penalty, but instead received murder. [ORLY?  Is that really what you want to equate the sanctions to?  Do you have no sense of the pain and suffering those boys went through at the hands of Sandusky and enabled by Penn State administrators and Paterno?  ...And you're going to equate a fine and probation to murder?  Have you no perspective?  How are the sanctions more severe than the death penalty?  Penn State football will still be played this fall and the next.  You can still go tailgate your face off.  You can still wear your blue and white t-shirts and hoodies.  You will still get to scream your lungs out how You Are...Penn State.  And so we will know you.]  You have spent 8 months dragging our name through the mud, so desperately needing blood to be spilled and our entire university to be burned at the stake. [Again with the overheated rhetoric.  Call it what it is: accountability.  When shit hits the fan, those responsible should and did suffer the consequences.] You could care less about responsibility and punishing those who deserve it. [You clearly don't understand how accountability works.] You reiterate every single time that this is about the victims, about those who were truly at loss during these heinous crimes, yet what have you done to actually help them? [Red herrings are a great for distracting attention from the appropriate target of attention, unless people recognize it.  Let's be clear: this is about accountability for the callous disregard for the child victims exhibited by university administrators and Paterno.  Sandusky was rightfully convicted of his heinous crimes.  But stop acting like it does or should stop there.]

WE responded. WE were 10,000 strong at Old Main that Thursday. WE traded our white shirts for our blue ones against Nebraska. [What a fucking sacrifice.] WE wore ribbons for weeks [What a fucking sacrifice.  Anyone that thinks wearing or displaying a ribbon has does anything is a smug, deluded fool.], and cried because we wish we could have done more. WE donated over $500,000 to RAINN, and continue to advocate prevention and awareness. [Great!  I genuinely applaud that effort.] WE investigated ourselves in search of the truth, to make improvements, and to ensure this never happens again in any capacity. [Yet it seems that many - if not yourself - tried their damndest to discredit the findings and their implications.] WE held the necessary people responsible, even when it hurt to do so. [So if you support holding those accountable, what the hell are you so mad about?  This is what the rest of society is looking for - once again: ACCOUNTABILITY.]
So what now? Will you make good on your promise of caring for the victims, spreading awareness, and seeking prevention? Will you donate to RAINN or SCAN; have you done so already? Will you actually step up and prove that you do care? Or will you readjust your grip on your pitchforks, and head to the next town that so desperately does not need an angry mob…[Antagonistic condescension;what a way to encourage people to donate to a good cause.  This is not a good way to get people think you and the rest of your tribe aren't bitter jerks.]
Those three paragraphs embody such self-victimization over sanctions that have virtually no impact on the football fan, its remarkable how little perspective the author, and indeed so many other Penn Stater's have on the situation.

And finally, lest you think the angst and outrage is confined to the young and immature, let Tom Price of Factoryville (w/ video) disillusion you:
It was our 9/11 Today. I just saw planes crashing into towers.
 I'm sure there are reasonable Penn Staters out there who are sickened not only by the crimes committed by Sandusky, but also by the callous disregard for the child victims as exhibited by Paterno and top administrators.  But they are not vocal enough.  Let them denounce the overheated rhetoric of their fellow Penn Staters.  That would be a good start to restoring the community's respectability within civilized society.

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