Joe Paterno

I am sure everyone is familiar with the recent events surrounding the Penn State football program.  This is obviously not a professional sports issue but the allegations concerning former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, and the ethical issues surrounding the failure to report his actions are such that we would be remiss if we do not discuss them here.  If true Sandusky’s actions are horrifying and sick but in many ways the fact that people within the Penn State organization knew is worse.  Pedophilia is sadly not unique to Sandusky but the tolerance of it in this case seems to be.

It seems that many people in the Penn State football program had some sort of knowledge of Jerry Sandusky’s actions.  Everyone who had any knowledge is in the wrong, but I am choosing to focus on Paterno because of his position as supreme head of the football program.  Not only was Paterno the most powerful person in the athletic department but it is completely reasonable to assume that given his long tenure and legendary stature that Paterno was the most powerful person at the entire university.  Given this level of power and control it is clear that Paterno had an ethical responsibility to address Sandusky’s actions when they first came to his attention.  Instead Paterno simply notified his superior, the athletic director, and then moved on.  This is enough to clear him from legal wrongdoing, but is in my mind a weak and inappropriate response from Joe Paterno.  In theory he has a superior to whom he can report violations but in practice he is the real leader of Penn State athletics.  By choosing to pass responsibility for this matter on rather than deal with it head on Paterno failed Penn State University and deserved to be fired


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