Why did Penn State officials conceal Sandusky at all?

Penn State is in hot water now because they endeavored at several levels to conceal Sandusky’s molestation of children.

Question: Why did they do it? What did they think would happen if they quickly fired Sandusky and referred him to the authorities for criminal prosecution as soon as they first became aware of his actions? Can someone outline what potentially bad consequences might have befallen Penn State if they had taken that approach instead of trying to bury the whole thing?

It seems weird in retrospect, but maybe they were worried about Penn State’s reputation.

Joe Paterno deemed it so.

No matter how you cut it, it would’ve been a huge embarrassment to have Paterno’s heir apparent raping little boys. The really inexplicable part is that they didn’t think they’d eventually get exposed.

The other reason? They’re scumbags.

I’m guessing that it’s for the same reason the Boy Scouts, the Catholic Church and numerous other organizations did… “I’ve known this guy for decades, that does not sound right, there must be some mistake, tha accusers are just disturbed troublemakers, the story is not credible, even fighting this in public will soil the stellar name of our organization, if we ignore the problem it will go away, we can’t afford to lose our excellent assistant, if it’s true how come nobody has complained before…” etc. etc. There is no limit to the capability for denial in people who simply do not want a confrontation that would turn really messy.

This just compounded the problems, and things were ten times worse in the end.

I recall a “DearAbby” from the 70s where parents found a local 14 yo boy had molested their 5 yo daughter while babysitting. When they tried to talk to any other girls’ parents they were treated like the bad guys. Total denial was easier than facing the truth head on.

Since there is no real way to know the motivations of the people concerned, let’s move this over to Great Debates.

General Questions Moderator

There’s nothing inexplicable about it; they were making the smart bet. Stuff like this usually doesn’t get exposed.

We hear about the cases where they DON’T get away with it, like Penn State, or Cardinal Law and whatnot. But of course, if you turn on the light in the barn and see one rat, there’s ten. For every Penn State I am quite sure there are 5, 10, or 20 other places where this sort of thing has happened and the coverup went relatively smoothly, ending either in quiet out of court settlements or just nothing at all, and the victims had to go on with no one punished for what had happened.

So what the higher ups at Penn State

The schools reputation would have taken a real beating if they had dealt with it as soon as it became common knowledge. The money that the school gets would have dried up as those that donated money to the school would have distanced themselves very far away.**
Yet what the school would have lost is minor compared to what they school is losing now . Most people would have to take a real hard look at Penn State before allowing their child to enroll there.
But l’ll tell you something else. Penn State isn’t the only school whose hands are dirty. They are just the one’s that got caught.

Blabber, welcome to the SDMB, but could you eliminate the blue color and weird font in the future? It’s actually easier to go with the default and we’ll get to know you by what you say rather than how you say it.


I agree with all of this except the last sentence. I believe that such an accusation(s) comes as such a shock to a person that he refuses to believe it. So he uses the rationales you mentioned to not report it.

Think of your dad, grandfather, a favorite cousin or uncle, and you are told that someone saw him molesting a child. You wouldn’t believe it for a second. You hear more accusations. You love the guy. He wouldn’t do such a thing. You continue to use the excuses.

While understandable, there comes a point in time where it was your fucking fault for not taking action at some point in time. Penn State officials including Paterno crossed that line. But I believe these things are done out of ignorance and/or denial instead of a desire to avoid a confrontation because they (the general “they”) continue to believe that their “Sandusky” is misunderstood.

Blabber, I have eliminated the odd font/color/bolding that you chose so that you do not start picking up negative comments from other posters who are irritated by what they perceive to be a matter of form over content–particularly a form they associate with young teen girls.

Please stick to simply using the default text to avoid having posters dismiss your thoughts because they dislike your delivery.

I would think that such stylistic devices would be irritating in MPSIMS, but in Great Debates, it will earn you a very poor reputation.

[ /Moderating ]

And of course the classic: “it would only be giving ammunition to people who want to destroy our organizaton and what it stands for”.

Or it gets exposed so much later any possibility of redress is academic and the parties are told it’s not worth it to proceed.

It’s one thing to cover one incident or two or three. But a decade worth of ghastly rape involving dozens of children with eyewitnesses? I think that goes beyond any reasonable expectation of undetection. Even if the odds were in their favor, the risk vs. reward computation demonstrated a degree of stupidity that borders on the insane. It’s not like the Catholic Church where exposing a priest could rattle the faith of any number of people. Turning Sandusky over to the authorities would’ve been a black eye, but most would realize it was the action of one man and the school did what it needed to to stop it.

Actually, Penn State just had it’s second best fundraising year ever. Other schools may have dirty hands for one reason or another, but I’ll eat my hat if it even approaches what Sandusky and his enablers were up to.

But once you ignore it for some period of time, you become complicit in some senses. It’s even harder because you have the guilt of being blind for so long, but also the fear of having to explaining how you could have missed it. The latter goes doubly so for people whose blindness becomes a growing mountain of potential legal and financial liability.

That may be true, but I’m with the OP in that I just don’t see the downside of aggressively dealing with it, full disclosure. Maybe I’m in the minority, but if PSU (or any institution) the moment it discovers something suspicious like this, gets it to the authorities, I think better of them, not worse. When it hits the press, if it does, the press release is, “Penn State takes our commitment to our children and to our community very seriously. We have an inviolable policy of involving the authorities to make sure that we do everything we can to protect other children who might otherwise be in danger.”

“Good on them,” would be my reaction. There are evil pricks in the world, that’s not PSU’s fault. It is their fault the moment they decide not to involve the authorities. Again, I just don’t see the downside.

We are in full agreement. I was just answering the “why” of the OP.

I am quite convinced you are incorrect. To use the Catholic Church sex abuse scandals, as an example, there have been a few high profile cases, but really, how many separate examples can you think of? And how many parishes are there, by comparison? Catholic schools? Orphanages? Other denominations with their own schools, institutions, schools?

We’ve seen a good dozen or two dozen terrible churuch-related child rape coverups exposed - but there are probably HUNDREDS of cases that went unexposed, on truly massive levels. Even those cases that did come to light often did so after some of the perpetrators had died of old age, so those people got away with it. In Ireland the Catholic Church ran what can literally be descriped as a child rape organization for at least sixty years. Abusers and victims grew old and died before anyone did anything about it. Do you really think the same hasn’t happened in other countries with Catholic churches? Not for an instant do I. And that’s just one religion; heaven knows what’s going on in schools, in youth organizations, and the like.

What would be your reaction if they made full disclosure the second or third time that something suspicious happens, if the first one or two times they just did an internal investigation and then brushed it off?

As jtgain says, the first time, you think there’s no way it could be a credible accusation, someone was mistaken, someone is mentally ill and making things up, there’s no reason to destroy someone’s career over this. And sometimes, you’d be right, it would be a baseless accusation or a mistake. But sometimes it’s not, and if there is a second or a third incident, you can’t go forward, because someone is going to ask “what about that first kid? How many more kids got raped because you didn’t report the first one?”

I think that’s the situation Penn State was in.

These situations are always complicated by the fact that people think they know how they would react, so they don’t truly prepare for the emotional and psychological gravity of the situation. They freeze, panic, then incorrectly assume their window of opportunity to report has closed. For example, a study found physicians fail to report child abuse injuries 21% of the time. Amongst regular folks, 47% don’t report known child sexual abuse. So the reality is many people fail to act, even those who are required by law to. But, since people think they would react if they saw something bad, even when some people eventually come forward after the fact, they are doubted because people mistake their half-measures for uncertainty. They look at guys like McQuearyand wonder, if he truly saw what he saw, why didn’t stop the abuse, and just beat the shit out of Sandusky.

Then you have the fact that abusers typically groom their victims, and others to accept their personal narrative. By most accounts, Sandusky was a great coach, honorable man who adopts disadvantaged kids, runs a successful charity, etc. That guy could never do something so bad. Why should someone take the word of some janitor, or some assistant coach over the reputation of a guy like Sandusky. A guy many of the people in charge had known for decades. How many of us would take the word of a virtual stranger over someone you feel you know? I would guess that is why PS didn’t initially report this guy. They trusted their own sense of judgement and fairness over an underlings.

Then couple that with they mounting feelings of guilt and complicity that arise over time as you begin to see things for what they are, and it becomes fairly clear why people consistently get this wrong. I don’t think that excuses people who remain silent, but it does give credence to the belief that if we are not actively conscious of our human frailties, we will often make bad choices.