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An independent report on Penn State’s handling of child sexual abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky has been released, and it’s damning. The report, written by a team headed by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, finds that PSU’s top leaders engaged in a fourteen-year conspiracy to protect Sandusky from justice, a conspiracy that had beloved football coach Joe Paterno at its center.

Some excerpts from Louis Freeh’s remarks on the report, delivered just moments ago:

  • “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. “
  • “[Penn State President Graham] Spanier, [Vice President Gary] Schultz, [Coach Joe] Paterno and [Athletic Director Tim] Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.”
  • Penn State leaders considered reporting Sandusky in 2001 but “changed the plan … after Mr. Curley consulted with Mr. Paterno … and decided not to make a report to the authorities.”
  • “Their failure to protect the February 9, 2001 child victim, or make attempts to identify him, created a dangerous situation for other unknown, unsuspecting young boys who were lured to the Penn State campus and football games by Sandusky and victimized repeatedly by him.”
  • “Further, they exposed this child to additional harm by alerting Sandusky, who was the only one who knew the child’s identity.”
  • Freeh rejects the four administrators’ stated reasons for failing to act, declaring that “it is more reasonable to conclude” that they “repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, Penn State community, and the public at large … in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity.”
  • “Although concern to treat the child abuser humanely was expressly stated, no such sentiments were ever expressed by them for Sandusky’s victims.”
  • Paterno was aware of an earlier “criminal investigation of Sandusky relating to suspected sexual misconduct with a young boy in a Penn State football locker room shower,” and indeed “followed it closely, but failed to take any action, even though Sandusky had been a key member of his coaching staff for almost 30 years, and had an office just steps away from Mr. Paterno’s.”
  • “Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley also failed to alert the Board of Trustees about the 1998 investigation or take any further action against Mr. Sandusky. None of them even spoke to Sandusky about his conduct.”
  • “In short, nothing was done and Sandusky was allowed to continue with impunity.”

It goes on like this for another page and a half, detailing what Freeh calls the group’s “callous and shocking disregard for child victims” of sexual abuse by their friend and colleague.

Freeh also notes that the Penn State Board of Trustees “failed in its duty to make reasonable inquiry into these serious matters and to demand action by the President” after they became aware of them via media reports in March 2011. In doing so, the board “failed to create an environment which held the University’s most senior leaders accountable to it,” allowing President Spanier to continue to stonewall them even as Sandusky, Curley, and Schultz were arrested in November of last year.

•          •          •

More details from the main body of the Freeh Report:

When Sandusky retired in 1999 — after top university officials were already aware of child sexual abuse allegations against him — he asked for and was granted a six-figure lump-sum payment above and beyond his substantial pension, a payment that several PSU officials said was unique in the recent history of the university. He was also granted emeritus status in violation of standard PSU policy on the awarding of that honor.

In addition to the unprecedented $168,000 payment and emeritus status, Sandusky requested while negotiating the terms of his retirement that he be given opportunities “to continue to work with young people through Penn State.” PSU granted this request, giving him and the youth group he worked with open access to the campus. In the next two years Sandusky would go on to sexually assault at least three more children on university property.

In 2001, following new evidence of child sexual abuse against Sandusky, PSU President Graham Spanier signed off on a proposal from his athletic director and head of campus police to “indicate” to Sandusky that “we feel there is a problem and we want to assist [him] to get professional help,” but not to provide their evidence to legal authorities. In a 2001 email, Spanier said that “the only downside for us” to this plan “is if the message isnʹt ‘heard’ and acted upon” — if Sandusky went on to sexually abuse other children — “and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it.” He called the decision not to inform police a “humane” and “reasonable” one.

The only action taken at the time was a March 2001 request that Sandusky no longer bring children to campus, a request he ignored — in August that year he committed another sexual assault on a child in the university’s showers.

No time for a full treatment of this right now, but can I just point out something?

There wasn’t a Superbowl riot at U Mass last night.

The AP story on last night’s events on campus says there were no hospitalizations, and no property damage. A university spokesperson says there were a few fistfights, but all thirteen of the student arrests were for either disorderly conduct or failure to disperse.

Why the “failure to disperse” arrests? Because fifteen minutes after students gathered in a main residential quad on campus, police told them to go home. They used horses, dogs, and smokebombs, cops to clear the area, and busted folks who wouldn’t leave. From everything I’ve seen the big drama all came from the cops.

Which is part of why I was a bit disappointed to see supporters of the Occupy movement snarking the U Mass students. No, their Superbowl party wasn’t a political act, but since when do any of us only like political parties? Occupy is about (among many other things) reclaiming public spaces, opposing police harassment, and creating community. Isn’t a mass campus gathering like the one that took place last night presumptively a good thing? Isn’t it a good thing even if we call it a riot?

A couple of years ago, Malcolm Harris — then a campus radical at UMD-College Park, now a writer and Occupy activist in New York — was present at a similar “riot” after Maryland’s basketball team beat Duke. His take on that night is well worth remembering now:

I know as an activist I’m supposed to oppose sports riots. I’m supposed to complain that students are willing to take to the streets when the Terrapin mens’ basketball team wins but not when tuition increases or black enrollment drops. Sadly, I can’t play the alienated radical role today because I was there Wednesday night, and I saw more than drunk revelers.

When students took to Route 1 after a hard-fought victory over Duke, it was with joy and celebration. We chanted “Maaarylaaaand,” and we didn’t mean the buildings or the endowment or the logo. We meant one another.

Student activism (as I wrote then) has always straddled the line between politics and play, between organizing for social change and acting up for the hell of it. Either impulse can be creative or destructive, either can be deployed for positive or negative ends, but both impulses are inherent to student identity, and both are worth celebrating.

Go Terps.

Update | Aaron Bady passes along a fascinating piece on the role of Egyptian soccer fans in that country’s popular uprising. Here’s a taste:

I believe we are witnessing a natural development in an inevitable conflict between two parties that have found themselves following two different paradigms of life: the paradigm of the depression, control, and normalization of apathy versus the paradigm of joyful liberation from the shackles of social and institutional norms to create gratifying chaos.

The latter is what I call “the politics of fun”.

And another:

The key to understanding the Ultras phenomenon is to imagine it as a way of life for these youth. For them, becoming a football fan became a symbolic action that was both joyful and a means of self-expression. But the broader social, psychological, and cultural contexts were unable to adapt to the groups’ activities, in part by virtue of their rebellious nature and their defiance of norms.

Go read.

See updates at bottom of post.

In 1998 Jerry Sandusky, a prominent assistant coach on Penn State’s top-ranked football team — and a possible successor to Joe Paterno as the team’s head coach — groped an 11-year-old boy in the team’s showers. The boy’s mother learned of this incident, she reported it to Penn State police. Sandusky later admitted to police that he had hugged the boy naked in the showers.

No charges were brought, and Sandusky retired the following year, retaining emeritus status at Penn State, an office in the university’s football building, and full access to the team’s facilities.

In 2000 Penn State janitors witnessed Sandusky performing oral sex on a male child in the football team’s showers. They reported the incident to their supervisor, who took no action. The janitors, fearing that they would lose their jobs if they took the matter forward, made no formal complaint about the incident.

In 2002 a Penn State graduate coaching assistant witnessed Sandusky anally raping a ten-year-old boy in the team’s showers. He told coach Joe Paterno, and then Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz, the latter of whom had authority over the university’s police. None of these officials reported the allegations to any police agency, nor did Penn State president Graham B. Spanier when he was notified.

Sandusky continued to have access to Penn State facilities, and to travel with the team, until his arrest Saturday on 40 counts of sexual abuse, allegations involving eight victims and incidents stretching from 1994 to 2009. Curley and Schultz have been indicted on perjury and failure to report charges stemming from the 2002 incident. Schultz has retired, and Curley has been placed on administrative leave, while Spanier and Paterno remain in their positions.

Spanier has said he has “complete confidence in how” Curley and Schultz “handled the allegations.” The university is paying the two men’s legal bills.

Paterno has more victories than any football coach in NCAA Division I history. His salary stands in excess of one million dollars a year, making him the highest-paid employee at Penn State.

Update | A statement from NCAA president Mark Emmert Monday evening condemned the sexual abuse of children but made no reference to the alleged Penn State coverup of Sandusky’s behavior.

Second Update | Paterno just canceled his weekly press conference, less than an hour before it was to begin.

Third Update, 12:20 pm | The New York Times is reporting that Penn State officials have decided that Paterno will not remain at Penn State, and that his departure could come “within days or weeks.”

Fourth Update, 1:25 pm | Now the Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that support for Paterno and Spanier is “eroding” on the Penn State Board of Trustees, and that the board could vote to remove both as soon as Thursday.

Fourth Update, Wednesday 9:30 am | A thousand Penn State students marched in response to the ongoing crisis last night, many of them supporters of Coach Paterno. Some called for the resignation of President Spanier, while others simply declared their support for Penn State itself.

Fifth Update, Wednesday 10:10 am | The Associated Press is now reporting that Paterno will retire at the end of this season. Penn State’s trustees met last night by phone and will meet again this evening — they are expected to announce the formation of a committee to investigate the scandal on Friday.

The University of Tennessee has granted a football scholarship to a student who participated in the brutal rape of his cousin at the age of 13.

(I’m putting this story behind a cut, as it contains details of the crime.)

Read the rest of this entry »

United Students Against Sweatshops has extended its remarkable string of victories against clothing-maker Russell Athletic.

This week Boston College and the entire University of California system announced their intention to terminate contracts with RA, bringing to fifty-seven the number of colleges and universities that have disaffiliated so far this year.

The campaign against Russell Athletic stems from the company’s history of anti-labor activity in Honduras, specifically its closing of the Jerzees de Honduras factory in the wake of its unionization.

About This Blog

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StudentActivism.net is the work of Angus Johnston, a historian and advocate of American student organizing.

To contact Angus, click here. For more about him, check out AngusJohnston.com.

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