The Penn State child sex abuse scandal is one of the recent widely discussed cases in the USA. The scandal broke in 2011 at Pennsylvania State University because of the uncovering of the facts about longtime sexual assault committed by the former university football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. He has committed sexual assault of eight (or even more!) under-age boys on the territory of the university. In addition, the scandal involved the alleged actions of some university officials who managed to cover up the majority of incidents. According to the extensive grand jury investigation, in 2011, Sandusky was formally accused and charged with crime on 52 counts of child molestation committed during the 1994 -2009 period. Based on the findings of the grand jury, several school officials were charged with perjury and falsification and failing to notify the police (Jerry Sandusky Grand Jury Report ). As a result, school president Graham Spanier resigned, and Joe Paterno (the head football coach) and Tim Curley (athletic director) were fired. Sandusky continued to maintain his innocence. The major goal of this paper is to examine the Penn State scandal by analyzing four discussion points from the viewpoint of designated actors.
Analysis of the actors’ actions
through the lens of legal compliance v. ethical compliance (Paterno, McQuery)
Paterno and McQuery were among the key actors in the case of the Penn State child sex abuse. Each of the actors demonstrated their actions based on their own identity and moral values in terms of legal and ethical compliance. It is known that under the law, any state employee who has learned about the acts of child abuse should report the incident to his/her supervisor. Based on the findings from the grand jury report, in 2002, McQueary reported the act of sexual abuse by Sandusky to his immediate supervisor, Paterno. Paterno reported the details of the incident to his immediate supervisor, Curley, and also reported this information to Gary Schultz, who headed the campus police. Therefore, it is necessary to conclude that both Paterno and McQueary could not be accused of any criminal wrongdoing, since they did what they were legally required to do in that situation (from their point of view).
However, analyzing the actors’ actions through the lens of legal compliance v. ethical compliance, it is clear that both actors were not interested in their involvement in criminal activity. At the same time, Paterno was criticized for not reporting the incident to police, and at least controlling that action. He acted unethically. Several advocates for victims in this case argued that Paterno should have been charged with not going to the police himself when it was clear that Penn State officials were unwilling to act legally.
McQueary, who acted as the graduate assistant, reported the incident details to his supervisor, but his actions were criticized as he failed to protect the boy from Sandusky and did not report incident to the police himself. According to the report, McQueary complied with the legal requirements, but failed to act ethically as he did not help the boy sexually abused by Sandusky in the shower, and did not go to the police himself. From the view point of McQueary, he acted legally.
Analysis of Penn State’s whistleblower protections and procedures
(McQueary/janitors that witnessed Victim 8 in 2000)
From McQueary’s point of view, Penn State’s whistleblower protections and procedures were improper. It is known that Penn State’s whistleblower protection Policy (or disclosure of wrongful conduct and protection from retaliation) protects the members of the university who report potential violations of the established University standards, ethical principles and policies against retaliation. McQueary would say that it was a tragedy for many victims that took many years to establish the right to blow the whistle on violent acts of child abuse. McQueary as a whistleblower faced the retaliation very similar to the type of retaliation most other whistleblowers experience in practice, especially when the molester is a respected community member. Although McQueary reported Paterno the details of the incident he witnessed in the Lasch Building showers, Paterno’s first reaction was that McQueary was “upset”. The fact that the graduate assistant was never questioned on the case by the University police or any other entity means that the university did not want to bring the case to public notice in order to ensure the university’s reputation.
From the point of view of the janitors who witnessed Victim 8 in 2000, Penn State’s whistleblower protections and procedures were inadequate. One of the janitors, named Jim, witnessed sexual abuse incident in the showers, but he made no report to the police. Now he is mentally ill and resides in a hospital. Jim reported his immediate supervisor Witherite that he had observed oral sex in the showers performed by Sandusky of the young boy. Actually, the information about the acts of child abuse delivered by janitors that witnessed Victim 8 in 2000 was ignored by the university’s authorities. As a rule, Penn State and other similar institutions are entities that allow their personnel to report all types of allegations of ethical or legal violations up a chain of command, but the authorities fail to take immediate actions. These actions can be explained by the desire to preserve the reputation of the institution, but never to take the road of justice.
Analysis and critique of the manner in which utilitarianism may have been used (Spanier/Paterno)
The manner in which utilitarianism may have been used to explain this case is inadequate. Utilitarianism states that any actions or human behavior can be viewed as right in proportions as they tend to promote happiness, and wrong as these actions/or behaviors tend to produce the reverse of happiness (Bykvist 21). In case of Penn State child sex abuse, the manner in which utilitarianism may have been used is absurd because it would be wrong to say that Sandusky was right when he committed crime. Both Spanier and Paterno would agree that Sandusky’s behavior did not produce the greatest amount of happiness. Therefore, his actions were wrong. However, from the point of view of the longtime Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, the university mishandled its response actions toward the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. School president Graham Spanier and others in power failed to punish the molester early on, and empowered him to continue the acts of sexual abuse on young boys.
How was justice served? If so, describe what type of justice. (Sandusky/Paterno/Football players 1998-2011/current football players)
From the point of view of Sandusky, justice was not served as he continued to maintain his innocence. He said that he enjoyed young boys, loved to be around them, but he was not sexually attracted to young boys. From the point of view of Paterno, justice was not served as he believed that his actions were not connected with criminal wrongdoing, and that he did what he was legally required to do. Football players 1998-2011 and current football players would say that justice was served. Although after the conviction, Sandusky continued to maintain his innocence, he was officially called a sexually violent predator. The fact that his attorneys had filed a notice to appeal the conviction did not change anything in the final decision. On October 9, 2012, Sandusky was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years and maximum of 60 years in prison. According to Judge John Cleland, the court’s decision was focused on the intentional avoidance of a sentence with a large number of years, because it would be “too abstract”, saying that sentence had the “unmistakable impact of saying ‘the rest of your life’.” Later, in 2012, Spanier had been charged with his covering up of Sandusky’s sexual crimes. Besides, Curley and Schultz had been charged with grand jury perjury, conspiracy practices, legal obstruction, as well as child endangerment associated with the scandal. Based on Freeh Report, Paterno, Spanier, Curley and Schultz were complicit in the crime as they concealed Sandusky’s sexual abuse activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and local authorities.
Thus, it is necessary to conclude that the case of the Penn State child sex abuse can be analyzed from the points of view of different actors: Sandusky, Paterno, Football players 1998-2011, current football players, Spanier, and others. However, it is very important to apply the existing laws and ethical principles of human society that point out to the fact that Sandusky violated the law, as well as Spanier and Paterno who empowered Sandusky to continue child abuse.
Bykvist, K. Utilitarianism: A Guide for the Perplexed. Continuum, 2010. Print.
Jerry Sandusky Grand Jury Report. The Washington Post. Available from:
The Report of the Special Investigative Counsel Regarding the Actions of the Pennsylvania State University Related to the Child Sexual Abuse Committed by Gerald A. Sandusky, dated July 12, 2012, commissioned by the Pennsylvania State University’s Board of Trustees. “Freeh Report”. Available