Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Predators on Campus

Maureen Dowd on the sex abuse scandal at Penn State:

I’ve got to wonder how [Joe Paterno] the 84-year-old coach feels when he thinks about all the children who look up to him; innocent, football-crazy boys like the one he was told about in March 2002, a child then Anthony’s age who was sexually assaulted in a shower in the football building by Jerry Sandusky, Paterno’s former defensive guru, according to charges leveled by the Pennsylvania attorney general.

Paterno was told about it the day after it happened by Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant coach who testified that he went into the locker room one Friday night and heard rhythmic slapping noises. He looked into the showers and saw a naked boy about 10 years old “with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky,” according to the grand jury report.

Prosecutors suggest that the former coach, whose memoir is ironically titled “Touched,” founded a charity as a way to ensnare boys. They have charged Sandusky, now 67, with sexually assaulting eight boys he met there.
If you have the stomach, I would encourage you to read the 23 page grand jury report. It's one of the most vile things I think I've ever read, not just because of the sexual abuse, but because the report is a direct window and insight into the world of college athletics, the complicity of higher education administrators, and the horrific disregard the victims were treated with as the scandal unfolded.

[Athletic Director Tim] Curley told the university president, Graham Spanier, about the matter, and it got buried. Paterno, Curley and Schultz disingenuously claim they were left with the impression that the contact might have been mere “horsing around,” as Curley put it. That’s grotesque.

Like the Roman Catholic Church, Penn State is an arrogant institution hiding behind its mystique. And sports, as my former fellow sports columnist at The Washington Star, David Israel says, is “an insular world that protects its own, and operates outside of societal norms as long as victories and cash continue to flow bountifully.” Penn State rakes in $70 million a year from its football program.

Collectively, college sports programs of all stripes bring in billions of dollars to their institutions. As times got tough during the recession, athletic departments were the only recession-proof program on campuses across the country. As the last remaining cash cows, athletics gets to do whatever it wants, and if that includes sacrificing a few 10 year old boys at the hands of a pedophile former coach to please the alumni/faithful, then that's just the way the ball bounces.

Incredibly, Paterno, amidst student pep rallies in his support, announced today that he would retire at the end of the season. That Penn State hasn't already shit-canned him and changed the locks is a testament to the criminality that continues to unfold.

And this is just Penn State we're hearing about. No doubt all kinds of egregious behaviors (criminal or otherwise) are routinely disappeared into the great ATM of higher education; an axis of evil which exists between the profit machine of college athletics, and the nerdy, loser administrators who turn a blind eye because they still have a chance to hang with the cool kids.

Funny, but we in higher ed. (particularly the social sciences) yap endlessly about "privilege"...white privilege, male privilege, heterosexist privilege, middle class privilege, ad nauseam, without ever realizing the very "privileged" position (the ivory tower) from which we yap.

The sports writer's comments above, slightly tweaked, sum it up: "Higher education is an insular world that protects its own, and operates outside of societal norms as long as cash continues to flow bountifully."

Perfunctory, privileged and predatory.

Stories like this make me ashamed to be associated with higher education.

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