First and foremost I will admit that, although I heard about the sex scandal at Penn State, I have not followed it closely…until recently. I started doing a bit of background reading and my head is still spinning from the astonishing timeline of events. This timeline indicates that in 1998, four years before graduate assistant Mike McQueary witnessed linebacker coach Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulting a 10 year-old boy in a Penn State locker room, a mother of an 11-year-old called the university police to report that Sandusky had taken a shower with her son. Two detectives from the police department listened to a conversation where Sandusky admitted the he had showered with other boys as well. Sandusky was questioned by an investigator with the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and admitted that showering with the boy and hugging him while in the shower were “wrong”. The DA decided not to press criminal charges and the case was closed.
Two years later…In 2000, a janitor (who was a temporary employee) reported that he had observed Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in the same locker room. This temporary employee reported what he saw to other janitors and his immediate supervisor. The supervisor told the temp to report the incident to someone else…which never happened.
In 2002, a third incident was witnessed. Graduate assistant Mike McQueary reported that he saw Sandusky sexually assault a boy in the locker room to Coach Joe Paterno, Tim Curley (the Athletic Director), and Gary Schultz (VP for Finance and Business). They notified university Graham Spanier as well. What happens?? The grad assistant is told that Sandusky’s locker room keys were taken. The assistant was never even questioned by police.
Do you see a trend here?
The current interim president, Rodney Erickson, stated that, in the future, Penn State would, “not only do what is required under the law, we will do what is right.” In light of everything that has happened with this case, the fact that no one from the university followed up is mind-boggling and infuriating. I think that this is what Erickson is speaking to. He is essentially saying, not only will we report it, we will follow-up because it is the right thing to do.
This school is steeped in tradition and hasn’t seen much change over the years. Rodney Erickson has stated (already after only a couple of months on the job) that he is resigning from his position of President when his contract ends in 2014. I think that this is a classic/textbook example of situational leadership. He was the person chosen to lead the university through this sex scandal crisis. By 2014, in order to really move forward, the university will probably need another president. At a recent town hall meeting, Erickson stated that the Penn State Board of Trustees “made a very, very difficult, and in many ways, courageous decision” by firing Paterno, a decision that has been viewed as wildly unpopular with the majority of the school’s alumni. I just can’t wrap my brain around this concept. Are we supposed to protect football and the idea of tradition (symbolic frame) before innocent children? Erickson is not popular at this time and has had to complete one of the hardest tasks that leaders sometimes face. I applaud him for stepping in and doing what is right (in this situation). If only more Penn State leaders would have shown this type of courage years ago…this situation would have turned out so differently.