Penn State Flubs Response to Child Abuse Accusations


Former Penn State Defensive Coach Jerry Sandusky has been arrested for abusing eight minors. Apparently, Athletic Director Tim Curley and VP for Finance and Business Gary Schultz were told about one incident but kept silent. They have since been charged with perjury.

The president of Penn State, Graham Spanier, issued a statement backing Curley and Schultz:

The allegations about a former coach are troubling, and it is appropriate that they be investigated thoroughly. Protecting children requires the utmost vigilance.

With regard to the other presentments, I wish to say that Tim Curley and Gary Schultz have my unconditional support. I have known and worked daily with Tim and Gary for more than 16 years. I have complete confidence in how they have handled the allegations about a former University employee.

Tim Curley and Gary Schultz operate at the highest levels of honesty, integrity and compassion. I am confident the record will show that these charges are groundless and that they conducted themselves professionally and appropriately.

The president has been harshly criticized for his response. One media expert offered this alternative for the university's response:

I am horrified to learn about the sexual abuse of eight minors. As a parent, I understand just how sacred a responsibility we all have to keep children safe. We will cooperate fully with the investigation and do everything possible to make sure this never happens again.

As for Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz, I would ask everyone to wait until the facts of the case have fully emerged before forming a judgment.

This statement more appropriately acknowledges the victims without aligning the university with Curley and Schultz. Since the president issued the statement, Curley has been placed on administrative leave, and Schultz has stepped down and retired from the university.

The Board of Trustees of Penn State University are also planning for the dismissal of Joe Paterno, the current football coach, who, according to a New York Times article, "has more victories than any other coach at college football's top level and who made Penn State a prestigious national brand."

 Discussion Starters:

  • How do you assess the proposed rewrite of the president's statement? What are the improvements -- and what are the risks -- of such a statement?
  • Do you agree with the university's decisions to 1) place Curley on administrative leave, 2) accept the resignation/retirement of Schultz, and 3) plan the exit of Paterno? Why or why not?