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July 12, 2012STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - From the start of the Jerry Sandusky trial until Thursday's release of the findings of the Louis Freeh-led investigation, there have been 32 days of sordid, explicit, damning revelations, leaving the Penn State University, its alumni, students and fans with no place to turn.
All of the shaming facts and explicit details have been on display for the entire world to see, leaving the most ardent supporters the university, of former head coach Joe Paterno and his program at a loss.
The leaders that had been entrusted with the welfare of the entire university community - Paterno, president Graham Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley - betrayed that trust repeatedly while allegedly knowingly allowing a monster to roam unfettered among its most vulnerable children.
When considered in the context of their reputations - men who had earned their status as arbiters of the most accurate moral compass - the implications are devastating. Far worse than the revelation of the grand jury presentment, the rushed firing of Paterno, the student protests in town, and all the questions that surrounded the circumstances of Jerry Sandusky's alleged child sexual abuse - the facts, brought to light in their simplest form, are horrifying.
The Nittany Lions were used and manipulated as a vehicle for the crimes of a serial pedophile. Worse, according to the Freeh report, Penn State's leaders were aware of as much, disregarding the welfare of Sandusky's child victims in favor of the overall health of the university and program.
"There was no "attempt to investigate, to identify Victim 2, or to protect that child or any others from similar conduct except as related to preventing its re‐occurrence on University property," the Freeh investigation concluded. "Four of the most powerful people at The Pennsylvania State University - (Spanier, Schultz, Curley and Paterno) - failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.
"These men concealed Sandusky's activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities. They exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky's victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well‐being, especially by not attempting to determine the identity of the child who Sandusky assaulted in the Lasch Building in 2001."
Though the Freeh report concluded that avoiding bad public relations was the most significant cause for the inaction of the university's leaders, the scope ultimately went much further.
Lack of empathy by university leaders, abysmal performance by the board of trustees to exercise its role as an overseeing body within the university, a president unwilling to engage in discussion or allowing dissent, virtually no Clery Act awareness university-wide, and a cultural aura of reverence for the football program that dissuaded janitors from reporting Sandusky's crimes to their superiors for fear of being fired, all contributed to this tragedy.
When juxtaposed against the testimony of the actual victims just weeks earlier in Bellefonte, Pa., the truth becomes that much more unbearable.
To one of the victims, then a 12-year old without a father or home life, the benefits of the Penn State football program that Sandusky's access provided were too good to pass up and too valuable to risk losing at the prospect of outing his tormenter's abuse. He, like the other victims Sandusky so viciously preyed upon, were the castoffs of society; fatherless, poor, and largely without the benefit of responsible adult supervision.
None of this directly implicates other Penn State's players, coaches or staff personnel as being enablers for these heinous crimes.
Though the Freeh report indicated that, "some coaches, administrators and football program staff members ignored the red flags of Sandusky's behaviors and no one warned the public about him," the shocking revelations that Spanier, Schultz, Curley, Paterno and McQueary were privy to were still unknown to everyone else.
While the public is now coming to grips with the answers, still wondering how any of this could have happened or how no one stopped it, not only at Penn State, but also through The Second Mile, Child and Youth Services, or even victims' schools, one sad reality is inescapable:
The ability of Sandusky to continue his horrifying crimes had everything to do with a passive culture at Penn State University, among its highest level of administrators and officials.
Trying to digest this extremely complex tragedy as a whole simply isn't possible today. Only time will allow for the proper reflection that can lead to understanding.
But today, and for the foreseeable future, Penn State mourns.
Penn State NEWS