Monday, November 28, 2011

A Plea to FINALLY Address Child Sexual Abuse and Its Victims

Admittedly, I am biased - I am a de facto Penn Stater.  After one of the most trying months on record with the explosive allegations that broke in the mainstream media in early November, Penn State and Joe Paterno have taken a beating.  I wrote about the anger and sadness that this caused at the time and still causes upon further reflection; it provoked me to assemble the facts about the "Penn State scandal" that I could in order to truly understand the evolving situation and learn from it.
Then Syracuse happened, incidentally because of the allegations that broke at Penn State.  And Jim Boeheim denied that he was Joe Paterno.  Admittedly, I had an initial hunger for retribution - if Paterno got fired for not doing enough of the right thing, then Boeheim should definitely be fired for doing nothing at all and further defending a man "he knew could not have possibly done what he had allegedly done".

But this is THE moment to actually reflect on the reports - outside of the stampede of the "raised pitchforks" - and to really learn what we can do to better our society.

And for the sake of this exercise, let's assume that the alleged perpetrators - Jerry Sandusky and Bernie Fine - are guilty (even though neither has had his respective day in court to actually work through the facts - but what does that matter when justice is applied by the "court of public opinion"...).

If the allegations are true, what can we learn?
  • Sexual abuse for boys is likely more rampant and pervasive than we want to believe
  • Influential men, like high-ranking coaches, can exploit boys fairly easily
  • Getting abuse out in the open is quite difficult, due to molester skill and witness vulnerability
  • Molesters and pedophiles can live for a long time "out in the open" - and even those people closest to them might struggle to suspect that these molesters and pedophiles could commit the acts they are committing
  • Accusations can come down to "what if that was your son who was abused?" vs. "what if that was your do-good uncle who was accused?" - what side would you more likely believe?  And what side would institutions believe?
  • Teaching boys to say something if situations become strange in any way is the first line of defense - a mere touch of the knee can start what eventually leads to full-on sexual contact
  • Those boys most vulnerable - at-risk and in foster care - face the greatest threat, and there is usually no one to protect them, even child services (is there anything that can be done for these boys?)
  • We should expect confusion and denial - the suspects do not usually fit the description that we might have in our heads about molesters and pedophiles
  • Large institutions - churches, universities, etc. - are not well-equipped to handle molesters and pedophiles amongst their population - perhaps this requires some broader institutional awareness and change than just a few inquiries and new leadership appointments?
If we allow ourselves to step back, we will see that this issue is actually much bigger than a couple of college athletic programs; it's a societal issue exacerbated by our puritanical values, which cause us to want to "cover up" and not talk about the untoward behavior and the harm it causes, particularly to boys.  Or more direct, if men are touching or committing acts with the genitalia of young boys, and we cannot create the sort of environment where boys can share this plainly and adults can discuss this reasonably in order to take action against offenders, then we will have lost the opportunity to make life better for children and reduce the number of boys who are sexually abused.

In short, this is not about a Penn State "cover-up" or a Syracuse head basketball coach who should take the fall for inserting both feet in his mouth for callous statements about alleged victims - or even college football teams that should sit out bowl games and seasons because "they just don't get it".  This is about recognizing that we have a larger societal problem appreciating, recognizing, and acting upon sexual abuse among boys, for a host of complicated reasons.  Unfortunately, the damage at Penn State has already been done, but the alumni are doing something about it, raising almost $500k for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)

I donated because it seemed like the right thing to do; I would encourage you to do the same.  I have reflected on what we can really learn from this situation because it would seem that child sexual abuse is more common than we probably want to admit - and something good should come out of the crucifying that Penn State and Joe Paterno have undergone.  Shame on us, then, for crucifying Syracuse and Jim Boeheim - when will we learn that the real travesty is focusing not on what we might learn to recognize the patterns of sexual abuse but rather on soiling of the reputations of the sort of leaders who we desperately need to raise proper awareness for better addressing and stopping sexual abuse amongst boys in the future?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Simple Pleasures, Small Bites

DSC03273DSC03274DSC03275DSC03282

Sandwich at Musee d'Orsay, a set on Flickr.
A week ago, I was standing on the steps of the Musee d'Orsay, stretching my legs before tunneling and shuttling on the RER back to the airport for my return flight to the US. I had one last craving to tame, that of taking a bite out of a baguette panini that comes from any number of bars, carts, and patisserie that huddle around trafficked areas in the city. With a jambon fromage in hand, I stood calmly and savored the mixed flavors of a fine sandwich, fulfilling my final wish. And when I was done, I looked around to capture the moment as a personal postcard before heading down the tunnel for catching the commuter train out to the airport.

It was a fitting end to a successful week of reflection - both work and personal - to catapult me through the end of the year. And it is this reflection on a simple panini which is especially appropriate for Thanksgiving - namely, that the simple pleasuress are for what we can all be so thankful.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How to Spend a Sunday

DSC03003DSC02972DSC02982DSC02984DSC02988DSC02995
DSC03001DSC03006DSC03009DSC03010DSC03012DSC03021
DSC03028DSC03029DSC03031DSC03032DSC03037DSC03040
DSC03041DSC03049DSC03051DSC03052DSC03053DSC03056
One week ago, I wandered the Seine on a clear night illuminated by a full moon. Illuminated further, I was returning to my hotel after visiting with friends that I will inevitably spend a lifetime following as we traverse our respective paths. We both converged on Paris, enjoying a fine lunch buffet at Bon and a fine exhibit at the Grand Palais on the Steins (Gertrude et al) collecting artwork of the Parisian avant-garde, in between a perfect walk from Avenue des Champs-Elysees to the Louvre Museum. I reflect to remember that the setting befits the more important point that friendships are worthwhile to cultivate and to affirm in our efforts to connect with the world around us. In short, the perfect sort of blueprint for how to spend a Sunday.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

In Search of Lost Time

Remembrance of evenings past 

In the fall of 1998, I arrived in Paris for the first time.  As much as the overnight train from Milan dulled my senses, it was exhilirating.  The world opened in front of me, one of the world's great cities unfurling itself, the menus and the language and the people and the movements of those who were living their Parisian lives before me, just another backpacker passing through.

I reflected on those days this week as I returned to Paris, this time for work and a trade show.  It is no longer a new city to me; I have lost count on the number of returns to the city but estimate perhaps 7-8 by this point.  In many ways, the city has changed - it is much friendlier to English speaker, I am much better versed in traversing foreign cities, and the fast-growing metropolises in Asia which I have since visited make Paris feel older and less dynamic.  But more poignant, I have changed.  Of course, I am no longer a young student in terms of my backpacking days, but the extent of change is greater and more profound; I am also no longer young in terms of my world weariness.  When the world was "newer" to me, the sights, tastes, and smells were more intoxicating, like the awakening of a baby to the greatness of the world outside the womb.  Now, it is better understood and more common.

Perhaps the reflection has more to do with the special sanctity of the Parisian walks that I have experienced several times over the course of my visits to this city and the revelries they have produced.  I had returned in 1999 and stayed with an Italian girl with fantastically curly hair; as she worked at UNESCO during the day, I would walk the streets and discover museums and arrondissement; we would then meet for  dinner and then encounter the social adventures of the night, when Paris duly earns its moniker "City of Lights".  I recall one morning when I ventured out to Versailles and reveled in the baroque lavishness of King Louis XIV, a topic that I devoured in an European History class that filled my last quarter at university and propelled me to graduate early and head back to Europe.  As I sat on a park bench in the gardens of Versailles, breezing through "Old Man and the Sea" and allowing my gaze to wander onto the great golden fountain at the center of the grounds, I was swept into an inspiration to craft a short story, a gift to Gabriella for her hospitality and shared moments in the city.  She was enchanted upon reading it that evening, and it led to building collective dreams of creative pursuits and to capturing the essence of the moments we shared in that maid's quarter high above the rue.  This reflection with so many others ordered my understanding of what magic Paris could propose and reveal in just a few short hours.

I enjoyed similar walks this week, if now only to stretch my legs; and as a sentimentalist, I lingered over some spots that once enchanted me.  In most instances, the spots are still there - a bar tucked away on the Left Bank behind Notre Dame, St. Sulpice, the vintage bookstalls along the Seine.  But as my feet carried me by habit through the same paths that once held my sway, I felt as if I was chasing ghosts that I could not grasp.  The spirit of my student days was but a wisp encircling certain spots that held such vigor only a short decade ago. 

Of course, Paris is still a lovely city.  It reminds me to be more artistic and to capture the inspiration that such ambulatory reflections trigger.  I also think of what connection this matured view has with the wild-eyed view of myself as the backpacker.  Alas, in chasing my own ghosts, I also was in search of lost time (yes, the reference to Proust is appropriate and intentional), realizing that the melancholy of youth's evaporation is more a celebration of the journey that triumphantly returned me to the same but different place, better for the wear and more tuned to celebrate revelries that have shaped a richer worldview.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Putting the Pieces Together

The last week has been interesting to say the least.  A few days ago, I shared what many in the Penn State community feel but might not have been reported by the national sports media like ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, CBS Sports, and others.  I will not link away to those sources as I have become convinced that articles and "thought pieces" from the likes of most of their writers are a bit tainted by the visceral emotion of the whole affair.  It makes for dramatic reading, but it does little to help sort out this mess.

As a side note, there is one well-articulated article worth reading, which is Joe Posnasky's piece, "The End of Paterno".  Joe Posnasky, incidentally, was working on a biography about Joe Paterno over the last couple of years, which will now likely end up as a seminal work on Paterno from start to finish when it publishes some time in 2012 or 2013 (likely after criminal proceedings finish). 

In the meantime, for my own sanity, I have decided to collect together a number of data points as I try to understand what has just transpired; it's grown into a long list (that has grown a little bit more as I have reflected additionally on Nov 14th).  For the record:

The Travesty
  • The events captured in the grand jury report, if true and hold up in the court of law (and will finally have their day in court starting on Dec 7th - now pushed to Dec 13th, it appears), are atrocious and tough reading
  • If true, justice will never be served for those victims, no matter what and how much is done to rectify the situation
Jerry Sandusky's background
  • Jerry Sandusky was a football coach at Penn State for 30 years, from 1969 to 1999; 23 of those years, he was the defensive coordinator and considered one of the finest in the game
  • Jerry Sandusky was known in the community as someone who was a champion for under-privileged youth long before the charges were brought to light
  • Jerry Sandusky started the foundation The Second Mile in 1977 with proceeds from a book he published on coaching the linebacker position; the foundation was started as a group foster home for children from broken homes and grew into a state-wide foundation that promotes its aid to 100,000 children annually across Pennsylvania and now into neighboring states; the Second Mile has a board that reads like the "who's who" of Pennsylvania business, politics, and sports, either actively involved or material donors to The Second Mile at some point in time
  • Jerry Sandusky was once lavishly praised for this work with children and The Second Mile by general observers and several writers from notable media outlets
  • Jack McCallum, a veteran writer at Sports Illustrated, said as much about Sandusky and The Second Mile, with regret, in an article on Nov 8th that he wrote about Jerry Sandusky back in 1999
  • Bill Lyon, a long-time writer at the Philly Inquirer, headlined that Camelot was brought down, although in 1999 he also piled on the superlatives for Sandusky's work, as the "pied piper of his time" for what he had done for disadvantaged youth (Slate examined this point here)
  • Jerry Sandusky also adopted six children of his own
  • Due to his own adopted family and his tireless efforts with The Second Mile, Jerry Sandusky often had children around him, which would have been considered a normal occurrence for Sandusky, as the articles from McCallum and Lyon also noted
  • Jerry Sandusky is accused of committing 40 acts on 8 victims as detailed in the grand jury report over the period of roughly 1995 to 2008; a ninth victim whose story is not recounted in the grand jury report came forward after the news went mass-market, and newest reports from one or two news outlets suggest there could be more victims coming forward
The First Reported Incident in 1998
  • Sandusky's first reported incident in the grand jury testimony around wrongdoing occurred in 1998, while he was still the defensive coordinator at Penn State
  • In this episode, Sandusky showered after a supposed workout at a football facility with an 11-year-old boy, whose wet hair upon arriving home triggered the victim's mother to contact University Police
  • In May 1998, University Police eavesdropped on two conversations between the mother and Sandusky; Sandusky admitted showering, potentially coming into contact with the boy while naked, and commenting, "I wish I were dead"
  • Sandusky admitted to wrongdoing with University Police, which appeared to trigger further investigation by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare into the incident
  • In June 1998, as part of the subsequent investigation, Sandusky was told by an investigator in the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare not to shower with any child again
  • It can be assumed that if an University Police detective eavesdropped on the mother's calls and concluded in its findings that a Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare investigator needed to get involved, as mentioned in the grand jury testimony, that both the university and the state had some records associated with this incident - and that the incident warranted noticeable attention
  • It was not clear if the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare took any additional action except to admonish Sandusky's actions; for instance, it was not clear if Sandusky was put on a "watch list", if The Second Mile was notified, or if Sandusky was "written up" by the university
  • It was not stated in the grand jury recording who from the university was told about this incident, and it was not stated if Joe Paterno knew about the specifics of this incident; it can be assumed that there are procedures that are undertaken for documenting, reporting, and archiving such investigations, particularly if University Police detectives were involved
  • However, it was stated in the grand jury recording that Gary Schultz, SVP of Finance and Business for Penn State, knew about the 1998 incident and the investigation done by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare; he stated this in relation to inquiries about the 2002 reported incident.  This admission would make it safe to assume that there was some awareness of the 1998 incident at the university as well as the subsequent state actions taken
  • Purely speculation until more facts/details are exposed- regarding this episode, it is hard to believe that more action was not taken with the evidence collected and presented of the event; this was handled by authorities who should have had the ability to act independent of the university on the events that transpired, as this appeared to be under both state and university jurisdiction according to the authorities involved.  It is possible that more follow-up was not taken due to Sandusky's reputation or position on the football team - or not; it is also possible that more follow-up was not taken due to intervention by the athletic department or the university - or not.  It is also possible to assume that someone like Paterno, even if not told directly and explicitly about the 1998 reported incident, would know about the incident from, at the very least, ongoing contact with Sandusky, but also from the normal coming-and-going within the State College community
Jerry Sandusky's retirement in 1999
  • Jerry Sandusky retired Penn State in 1999
  • Grand jury testimony related a meeting with Joe Paterno in May 1999 where Sandusky was "emotionally upset" about being told he would not be the next head coach at Penn State and which preceded his retirement; Sandusky shared this in some capacity with victim #4, who arguably received the most abuse (my measure, based on number of accounts and vulgarity of account descriptions), according to the grand jury testimony
  • Purely speculation until more facts/details are exposed - regarding this event, it is possible that Paterno might have asked Sandusky to leave the program in connection to the 1998 episode and that he was not fit to continue as defensive coordinator at Penn State based on the events and outside investigation - or not; it is then possible to assume that Paterno knew about the 1998 incident - or not.  It is possible that Joe decided to continue coaching for a long time (which he did), and that prior promises to Sandusky of being a "coach-in-waiting" were reneged - or not.  It is possible that Paterno acted on his own accord to punish Sandusky for his actions in 1998 and remove him from the university and program - or not.  It is possible that none of these scenarios explain the event and that other circumstances came into play for the decision.  In any case, here is a blog post that I found where additional facts and speculation on the Sandusky retirement were opined; the author came to his own conclusions, which I cannot validate based on my limited knowledge of the facts
The Second Reported Incident in 2002
  • Sandusky's second reported incident in the grand jury testimony around wrongdoing occurred in 2002, after he was retired and no longer part of Joe Paterno's staff
  • Important note: Sandusky no longer worked for Joe Paterno, the athletic department, or the university at this point, so he would be considered an external party, even if he was familiar to university personnel and had emeritus status (Sandusky received this as part of his 1999 retirement package for 30 years of service)
  • In this episode, Mike McQueary claimed to witness Sandusky performing a sexual act with a boy; it was not ascertained the age of the boy as there was apparently no attempt to find out who the boy was, but it was guessed that he was 10 years old
  • Mike McQueary claimed to hear sounds from the shower and then proceeded to peek into the shower where he saw the act as it was taking place
  • Mike McQueary took no immediate action in that situation to stop the act, except to "leave immediately, distraught"
  • Mike McQueary's next action was to go to his office at the school and call his father, who advised him to talk to Joe Paterno; Mike McQueary did not call the police or report the incident to authorities besides Paterno, as far as the grand jury testimony states
  • Mike McQueary did not appear to call Joe Paterno until the next day, after he stayed the night with his father.  Presumably, Paterno took McQueary's call the next day, accepted McQueary into his home, and then heard recount of what occurred the night before
  • Paterno testified that McQueary was upset.  It was not reported in the grand jury testimony what McQueary said to Paterno, only that McQueary was upset.
  • Paterno called Tim Curley after receiving McQueary's account; Curley, Paterno's immediate superior at Penn State, met with Paterno in person at Paterno's house the day after Paterno talked to McQueary.  The testimony states that Paterno shared with Curley that McQueary had seen Sandusky in the football locker room with a young boy, "fondling or doing something of
  • The chronology then follows that Paterno met separately with Curley and Schultz regarding the incident; Schultz testified that he was called to a meeting with Curley and Paterno, which suggests that Paterno talked with Curley again about what he had heard with McQueary (which Paterno reported as "disturbing" and "inappropriate" conduct in the testimony), now escalated to a higher-ranking administrator in Schulz, who also managed University Park Police (which had jurisdiction over the incident)
  • The grand jury testimony also notes that around 10 days after the weekend meetings at Paterno's house (the McQueary-Paterno face-to-face on Saturday and the Curley-Paterno face-to-face on Sunday) and subsequent to Paterno's meeting with Curley and Schultz , Mike McQueary met face-to-face with Tim Curley and Gary Schultz to formally report the incident; Paterno was not present.  At this meeting, McQueary apparently did share that he witnessed Sandusky in a sexual act with a boy in the shower involving Sandusky, to which Curley and Schultz agreed that they would "look into it"
  • At this point in the grand jury testimony, there is uncertainty expressed by Schultz, that he was "very unsure" about what he remembered McQueary telling him and Curley, that Schultz had the impression that "Sandusky might have inappropriately grabbed the young boy's genitals while wrestling" in the shower and agreed it was inappropriate sexual conduct between a man and a boy
  • However, Schultz conceded that McQueary reported inappropriate sexual conduct by Sandusky to him; at the same time, Schultz testified that he judged the acts were "not that serious" and that Schultz "had no indication that a crime had occurred", an assessment he shared with Curley
  • As part of the grand jury testimony, it appeared that Schultz was pressed to admit that sodomy would be clearly inappropriate behavior - which he did admit; Schultz then denied that such conduct was reported to him in either his meeting with Paterno or his meeting with McQueary
  • The resulting actions were unclear at best - Schultz agreed with Curley that Sandusky should not bring any more "Second Mile" children into the football building and believed that he and Curley asked the "child protection agency" (can assume the reference was to the Pennsylvania Department of Child Welfare) to look into the case, which Schultz admitted was a similar case to the 1998 incident; in a subsequent statement in the grand jury testimony, Schultz believed the "child protection agency" was investigating what McQueary reported, which could be interpreted to mean that Schultz already thought the agency was investigating.  At the least, the statements are confusing; at the most, the statements are conflicting and suggest that action was not only not taken but also potentially not intended to be taken.  In this regard, Schultz's testimony is the most troubling because he asserted that investigation should have been or was already being conducted, but he communicated on record that he did not believe there was wrongdoing.  The culmination of this testimony is what likely triggered the perjury charge
  • Tim Curley was largely silent in the grand jury testimony, so it is difficult to determine his contributions, but he does appear complicit in his actions alongside Schultz based on repeated exposure to the reported incident from both Paterno and McQueary
  • Graham Spanier noted his "extensive responsibilities" at Penn State in the grand jury testimony and the trust that he placed in Tim Curley and Gary Schultz to handle their responsibilities; he noted that Curley and Schultz did not indicate a plan to report the incident to authorities, which did not match with Schultz's statement
  • Spanier noted that he was not aware of the 1998 incident, which can be interpreted anywhere along the continuum between unevenness from university personnel in the knowledge of the previous incident to neglect of recognition from university personnel of the prior reporting

Reflections on what I have gathered thus far
  • Child sexual abuse is powder keg of an issue - it's so emotionally charged that reasonable people cannot calm themselves sufficiently to entertain civil discourse
  • The scandal might involve a former college football assistant coach but is not really about college football at all - the facts suggest it is really about a lack of institutional action related to child sexual abuse, making this a Penn State or institutional issue rather than an NCAA college football issue; there is a great article on Slate from a victim who reveals his abuse in a powerful way to reflect upon the issue of abuse generally as it applies to discovering its occurence in any organization
  • Outsiders to Penn State have had a difficult time appreciating the impact that Joe Paterno has had on the university, which goes far beyond the football field; this adds further emotional dimension to this story and leads to several misinterpretations of the reactions that the Penn State community has had to Joe Paterno's firing
  • Now that some journalists are actually reporting on Jerry Sandusky, they are finding that he was an extremely selfless man to outside - and even inside - observers; Sandusky's former reputation would not have created the impression that he was capable of the sorts of alleged acts found in the grand jury testimony
  • It is hard to ascertain how well that the University administration and college football staff knew about Sandusky and his alleged illicit activities with children - the immense success of The Second Mile and Sandusky's active involvement with the charity provided a good decoy for hiding his alleged behavior
  • We might not be done with charges brought forward against Sandusky, as he has been involved with children since 1977 - effectively another 20 years of time where incidents could have occurred and might still come forward (this is pure speculation - I have no sources or facts to suggest one way or the other except for the comments above, although new charges have been filed as of Nov 22nd which now include minors)
  • It is curious and coincidental timing that Sandusky's retirement came one year after the first reported incident and that the stats and results for Sandusky's defensive squads were still fairly good leading up to his retirement; it makes it easy to conclude that the 1998 incident might have contributed to Sandusky's seemingly early retirement, but I have do not have additional sources or facts to suggest one way or the other
  • It is also curious and coincidental timing that Sandusky's allegations ranged from 1994-2008, with some decent concentration happening around and after his retirement in 1999 (note the unreported incident from the grand jury report in 2000); it is conceivable that his sadness/anger/other feelings from retiring from PSU drove him to intensify his alleged activities with The Second Mile children.  Again, I do not have additional sources or facts to suggest one way or another
  • Joe Paterno, it can be argued, made a mistake in not further digging in to the 2002 incident; it is difficult to determine from the grand jury report why he was not more assertive, since it appears that he had enough information, even if Mike McQueary did not share the whole view, to take more concern for ensuring the situation got handled (the grand jury testimony did note McQueary's "upset" nature from what he saw).  It is difficult to piece together, however, if McQueary shared the more explicit details of what he witnessed, which might have caused Paterno to take a different tact with the incident; this appears to be a hotly debated point amongst observers.  It should also be stated that Paterno did follow up with Curley not once but twice, with the second time including Curley and Schultz, who was a higher ranking official that had the ability conduct a police investigation.  Since Paterno did follow through with Curley in an escalation from the initial meeting, it is plausible that Paterno might have followed up additional to those meetings after the incident was reported to him (since he did follow up once within a week of the incident, as documented in the grand jury report), but I do not have additional sources or facts to suggest what else transpired
  • Speculation surrounds the long-standing relationship that Paterno might have had with Sandusky (they worked together for 30 years) and the potential protection Paterno might have provided to keep Sandusky from harm, but I do not have additional sources or facts to suggest one way or another.  It is worth nothing that a couple of sources mentioned the challenges that Sandusky and Paterno faced working together in the end.  It is worth mentioning as well, in the context of the 2002 incident, that Sandusky was no longer working for Paterno or the university, for that matter.  Additionally, the facilities where the incident happened were under the control of the athletic department - not Paterno - and the responsibility for following through on such an incident was with Curley and Schultz - not Paterno
  • To the last point, Gary Schultz made a bigger mistake in not following through on the investigation that he presumed was going on; since he both knew about the 1998 incident (according to his testimony in the grand jury report) and had authority over the University Police department (which would have had the proper jurisdiction and investigation resources to apply), he was in the best position with the best set of data points to initiate a more thorough investigation or to ensure that an investigation was carried out
  • Tim Curley and Graham Spanier did not appear to respond to the allegations in any material way, according to the grand jury testimony; it is hard to ascertain how much they knew or did not know, but it is relatively clear they were briefed on the 2002 incident (in Curley's case, three times) and not active in following through on the information presented to them
  • Graham Spanier's testimony particularly cast him as an aloof administrator who did not get involved in much of the incident at all; this can be interpreted as an academic sitting in his "ivory tower" or someone who felt that leadership was sufficient in the athletic department to be able to handle this on its own
  • It is worth reiterating, in contemplating the events, that Jerry Sandusky was no longer an employee of Penn State at the time of the 2002 incident; it might have been assumed that it was not the role of the university and more the role of The Second Mile (where he was a leading figure of the foundation) to act upon the transgressions.  I can appreciate the "grey area" in jurisdiction although it is not an excuse not to follow through, at the very least, on an investigation
  • From the facts that I have been able to gather, the biggest mistake was not ensuring that the Pennsylvania Department of Child Welfare was notified, much less encouraged to complete a subsequent investigation of the 2002 reported incident; based on chain of command, Gary Schultz should have ensured this happened, at least gotten formal confirmation that it was underway, as noted above.  I believe this point, along with the perjury charges for Curley and Schultz, are the most troubling items relative to the trial that will play out starting Dec 7th, and I would assume that fault will be assigned to both these actions
  • Regardless, there are a number of data points, when pieced together, that can be built up into several plausible scenarios in terms of events unfolding, actions taken by the parties involved, and outcomes.  For instance, it is possible that Paterno was initially involved to "force" Sandusky's retirement after the first reported incident in 1998 so that his issues were no longer issues associated with the university.  It is possible that University administration did not feel they were in a position to take more concerted action with Sandusky after the 2002 reported incident because he was no longer an employee of Penn State.  It is possible that those involved, who knew Sandusky for several decades, could not believe or fathom that such horrific events could and would be happening; the reputation of The Second Mile was stellar, and Sandusky was considered a "saint" by many who knew him.  It is possible that there was a cover-up.  It is possible that colleagues were protecting a long-time colleague from harm and legal action.  It is possible that there was inaction based on lack of clarity on jurisdiction - was this an athletic department issue, a Penn State issue, or a Second Mile issue when it was reported in 2002?  Without working through more of the data points, it is difficult to determine which scenario painted the true picture of what happened, and subsequently, what corrective action to take
  • Penn State University has handled the fall-out of the scandal in a way unbecoming of the roles of the parties involved, against the judicial process (it is troubling when the Pennsylvania Attorney General voices concern over the firing of a cooperating witness), and in snap reaction.  For instance, Paterno could have grounds, as the facts lay out and stand as of today, for defamation of character and wrongful termination from the university.  I don't think Paterno would do such a thing based on his prior track record, but this is not out of the realm of possibilities.  Also, it is puzzling to me why Paterno would be fired and not Tim Curley (he is still technically employed by Penn State, just on "administrative" leave of absence); it is also puzzling why Schultz, who would appear to have the most troubling testimony in the grand jury report, was allowed to retire without any sort of additional recourse or inquiry.  It is possible that potential legal recourse is what has delayed the termination or recourse regarding Curley and Schultz, but this has not been communicated through any channel.  What is more straightforward is that McQueary is in a very difficult spot as someone who saw the incident and reported it, yet is being vilified almost as much as Paterno because it would not "seem fair" to fire Paterno and then not also fire McQueary.  The only clear outcome is that the "court of public opinion" is a strong force that requires reckoning and that the national media, when empowered, makes it hard to "take the microphone" and intelligently sort out what is right and prudent vs. what is easiest to appease and "make it go away"
  • It would be fair to chalk up Joe Paterno's vilification to the fact that he was held to a higher standard by the values that he carried throughout his life.  If he was another person or another coach, he would not have been the focal point of this story (witness Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse University child abuse scandal that is now breaking, courtesy of the awareness raised by the situation at Penn State).  He surely made mistakes, but I believe the price he will pay in terms of the tarnishing of his reputation will be far greater than the transgressions he might have committed by not fulfilling his "moral obligations"
  • It would also be fair to state that the course of events might lead to additional collateral damage for the Penn State football program, starting from a "forced exit" scenario for the existing coaching staff up to a "death penalty" for the program that could be imposed by the NCAA.  In the context of the other reflections, this is an additional travesty as many of these people have neither knowledge nor connection to the events that transpired, and their careers might be tarnished through no fault of their own
  • Ultimately, the overall situation begs the provocative questions that we can each reflect upon: how would we handle a situation where a long-time associate/friend has been implicated in an alleged crime - how far would we go in reporting them for potential misconduct or protecting them from harm?  How would we go about resolving the situation, "following the rules" that govern such matters or acting beyond established policies and procedures?  What determines what is the right thing to do and how to go about doing the right thing when you have influence and standing but not formal power within a larger organization?  These are tough questions and ones that really test our character, mettle, and loyalty to friends

What I have learned from the scandal and subsequent series of events
  1. Child sexual abuse is a heinous crime and is not tolerated by our society
  2. Child sexual abuse can happen anywhere, even at "pristine" Penn State
  3. Child sexual abuse is sometimes hard to recognize, particularly with young boys, based on the commonly-held views of males and sexuality, the challenges boys and men might have communicating such offenses, and sometimes the nature of the individuals that commit the transgressions (Sandusky could be classified as a "nice guy" molester, if he is found guilty)
  4. If you see something, say something - and in some cases, this might not be enough (witness McQueary and Paterno)
  5. Doing what is right can be difficult and fundamentally test your character - it is something we must all aspire to achieve, even in the face of adversity
  6. Don't trust the media to tell a complete story - they are not really paid to do this anyway (watch Good Night and Good Luck if you would like further context), and their desire for headlines trumps their search for the truth, in most instances

I'm sure as the events further unfold, we will learn more to better understand what happened, how, and why; I intend to fill in the facts as they come out to round out the picture.  At this point, I am starting to move beyond the raw emotion phase and to accept that the world has changed and that Penn State has changed with it; this is all inevitable.  Moving forward, I really hope we can allow our more thoughtful sides to contemplate the actual situation, to address the root causes and contributors to the events that transpired, and not to let the "hot heads" on all sides drive the bus.  Because we have already gone off the cliff, and the damage done is now much greater than it had to be.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Shadows of Greatness

Paterno coaching in his prime in the late 1960's


I grew up watching Penn State football.  This was because my father grew up on Penn State.  We have a family of Penn Staters, across my own family but also grandfather, great uncles, cousins, and others - several of which studied, taught, and still live in State College. 

For Penn State, college football and academics go together.  This was the life's work of Joe Paterno, a Brown graduate and star quarter back and cornerback (still holds the Brown career interceptions mark) who followed his former coach at Brown, Rip Engle, to central Pennsylvania.  Joe was born from a family of Italian immigrants who carried "old world" values and a passion for education.  Joe was almost a lawyer, but he found himself drawn to the power, elegance, and teamwork of the all-american gridiron sport, thus becoming a coach.

Penn State was not far removed from being an agricultural school when Joe first arrived in 1950.  Since then, he has helped to carry the university into association with the nation's elite, a major research institution that is now part of the illustrious Big Ten, an university that competes across the region for scholars, athletes, and other talented individuals who would have scoffed at the notion of venturing to State College for an education all those years ago.

But 62 years later, 46 of those as the head coach of the college football team, Joe Paterno has literally put Penn State and the surrounding State College community on the map.  He has also commanded an outsized role in those results, using his achievements to drive material gains for worthwhile causes.  He paved the way for African-American student-athletes to not only get accepted to the university but also to play and to be considered as equals on the team and in the community.  He also fought for defining a greater meaning for student-athletes, that they should excel in both academic and athletic pursuits.  This "Grand Experiment" was described as "Success with Honor", the idea that national championships and academic accolades (starting with high graduation rates) can go hand-in-hand.  He believed so much in these ideals that he completely committed his life to their pursuit in Happy Valley, marrying a local girl, settling down permanently, and devoting almost all his time, energy, and money to make Penn State the great place that it is today.

The 78% graduation rate of his players.  The 80+ All-Americans.  The 45+ Academic All-Americans.  The 250+ players who went on to play in the NFL.  The 409 wins.  The 37 bowl games, 24 of which were victories.  The Paterno Library, and the $4.5M+ that he has contributed personally to the university.  This is all part of the backstory of a man whose legacy will be challenged by the horrific events allegedly committed by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky (the grand jury report covers the charges) and the additional action that Joe did not take that fateful weekend in 2002 when a graduate assistant (a former player at that) presented him with certain information about events that took place between Sandusky and a young boy after hours at a football locker room facility.

I have reflected a lot on the events of the last few days.  First, the explosive outbreak of the allegations.  Then, the intensifying media scrutiny of the developing situation.  Now, the rising anger and calls for immediate action and accountability to save Penn State from its inevitable fate - that feeling of a runaway train ready to crash into, flatten, and destroy the aforementioned legacy of Joe Paterno and Penn State (update on Nov 9th: the inevitable was made real, as Joe announced his retirement today - and then at 10pm the Board of Trustees fired him).  As someone who has invested in a lifetime of memories and associations with Penn State as a place much greater now than Joe himself, I feel something similar to Matt Millen, a former player under Coach Paterno and now just another member of the Penn State family trying to grapple with this horrible situation.

I can draw no meaningful conclusions at this point.  I feel for the victims of this atrocity, who might have lost their innocence forever through no fault of their own (and, as a side note, deserve so much more, particularly if several were from disadvantaged backgrounds to begin with).  I feel for Penn Staters, whose identities will continue to be challenged by further revelations, media flourishes, and the inevitable taunts that will come from other fans, journalists, pundits, and observers from across the nation.  And I feel for Joe Paterno, who has consistently done what he believes is right - even in the face of great adversity - and has acted with honor and integrity.  In this case, he appears to have followed the law and even university policy and procedure, but perhaps not the dictates of common decency and humanity that would coincide with the greater ideals he has espoused over his long career.

In some small way, these words are meant for catharsis, to create outlet for the pangs of anger and sadness that jockey at odds for dominance in my head.  I want to consume every new article, soundbyte, and editorial that hits the wire, hoping that the next set of words will provide the revelations that clarify this whole mess.  I realize this wild hope is unfounded - there is nothing from snap reactions that will solve for the tumult ensnaring the victims, the institution, and those affiliated with the Penn State community like myself.  Instead, I pen these words as a certain cantation, to demystify the behaviors of an alleged sexual predator whose seemingly genuine care for children likely masked a much darker side (noting that Sandusky adopted six children himself and helped to found a charity, The Second Mile, that now helps over 100,000 youth annually across all of Pennsylvania).  I pen these words with a desire to unlock the puzzle of what people knew about Sandusky, what incidents were witnessed by whom, when, and why the path to investigation and trial took so long to materialize.  Ultimately, I pen these words to divorce myself from the torment of this situation and to remove myself from the news cycle so that I can grieve the loss of this great institution. 

Because this week, the Penn State we knew, the Penn State so well encapsulated in its alma mater that alumni have sung so softly before home games at Beaver Stadium for decades, has passed - and all we are left with are the shadows of greatness.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Growing Up

3 months

Time passes in subtle yet dramatic ways.  I still remember the first days of meeting my godson, when he was first born in San Francisco.  For me, it was the days of carefree living, a lot of travel and more wonder about the future portends of love, work, and adventures.  For him, it was the wonders of life itself.

If I fast forward almost a decade, there is more clarity than what transpired in those days.  Love is more certain.  Work is better defined.  Which make adventures less ambiguous.  But how time etches certain marks on life.  10 years can be a very long time, but not so long after all.  And in the eyes of a child, it is almost the scale of growing up.  I will be curious to measure the next decade and what will come of today's pursuits - mobile wallets for me, acting for him.  And with reflection of such time passing, I will be curious as to what others cities we will traverse and what other accomplishments we will achieve.  For the moment, I am contented that we have our time in NYC, only a short train ride away.
9.5 years

Monday, November 07, 2011

Holidays are Here Again


Ruby earned her holiday mouse ears
With all the busyness in November and December schedules, it turned out that Sunday was the best day to put up the holiday decorations.  So out of the garage and up the stairs came the tree, ornaments, train, wreathes, stockings, and other odds-and-ends that spruce up the living area for the end of the year. 

Ruby seemed to enjoy her first taste of holiday decorating (she came on the scene last year after Thanksgiving when decorations were already up), and we hope she is around a little bit more than Rose for such special occasions.  Holidays are here again, and for that I am happy and eager.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

A Neighborhood Walk

DSC02916DSC02890DSC02893DSC02897DSC02899DSC02904
DSC02907DSC02909DSC02912DSC02919DSC02920DSC02923
DSC02924DSC02925DSC02928DSC02933

It's almost 0.5 miles to take a turn in our neighborhood at the end where our townhouse is located. This distance is just about right for Ruby to get her legs stretched, get a nice run in, and then peter out back at home to fall into her cushy bed. It seemed appropriate to capture our turn around the neighborhood with such a clear blue weekend as we have experienced thus far...