In November 2011 the Special Investigations Task force of Board of Trustees of Pennsylvania State University retained the law firm of Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan, LLP, to conduct a complete and independent investigation of:
– The alleged failure of Pennsylvania State University personnel to respond to, and report to the appropriate authorities, the sexual abuse of children by former University football coach Gerald A. Sandusky, and
– The circumstances under which such abuse could occur in University facilities or under the auspices of University programs for youth.
The final report titled Report of the Special Investigative Counsel Regarding the Actions of The Pennsylvania State University Related to the Child Sexual Abuse Committed by Gerald A. Sandusky, was released today.
The report is sickening at the most basic level because it involves the sexual abuse of children by an adult who was trusted by the children. The regular abuse of children by a trusted adult is bad enough, but if it is possible to compound the problem, it was compounded by Sandusky’s peers and superiors who were aware of the abuse and were more concerned about the effect disclosure would have on the University than they were on the welfare of the children.
This was stated succinctly in parts of Judge Freeh’s press release:
Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.
Although concern to treat the child abuser humanely was expressly stated [by Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley], no such sentiments were ever expressed by them for Sandusky’s victims.
Although we found no evidence that the Penn State Board of Trustees was aware of the allegations regarding Sandusky in 1998 and 2001, that does not shield the Board from criticism. In this matter, the Board – despite its duties of care and oversight of the University and its Officers – failed to create an environment which held the University’s most senior leaders accountable to it.
After a media report on March 31, 2011, the Board was put on notice about serious allegations that Sandusky was sexually assaulting children on the Penn State campus. The Board failed in its duty to make reasonable inquiry into these serious matters and to demand action by the President.
The President, a Senior Vice President, and General Counsel did not perform their duty to make timely, thorough and forthright reports of these 1998 and 2001 allegations to the Board. This was a failure of governance for which the Board must also bear responsibility.
The failure of Pennsylvania State University was manifested most obviously by the conduct of Gerald Sandusky, but his own moral failure was shared by everyone alongside him and above him who tolerated the institutional corruption resulting in the sexual abuse of his victims. To the extent they knew and placed the university’s reputation and funding above the welfare of the children, they are every bit as culpable as Sandusky.
Sandusky will very likely die in prison. We can only hope that at least some of those in positions of authority at Pennsylvania State University who turned a blind eye to Sandusky’s years of sexual abuse of children will join him behind bars for a very long time.