Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ethics and Penn State

If you want to make the average person's head explode, start talking to them about ethics.  There's no surprise that the end of Billy Madison involved the villian trying unsuccessfully to define business ethics - it's a nebulous concept that depends largely on the accepted social behaviors of society.  It's like the definition of porn - you know unethical behavior when you see it.

The problem is that not everything that is illegal is unethical, and not everything that is unethical is illegal.  Take the example of stealing bread to feed starving children.  Illegal?  Yes, property was stolen.  Unethical?  No - you saved a child's life and became the protagonist for Les Miserables.  But what about unethical situations that may still be legal?  That's what lawyers are for.

Take a look at the Grand Jury Report about Penn State and Jerry Sandusky.  If you want to have an opinion on the matter, you should probably educate yourself, but it's not something that you'll want to read.  What you will find is that a 28-year-old grad student walked in on the rape of a child, called dad to figure out what to do, and the next morning, showed up at Joe Paterno's house to discuss what to do.  Right now, not illegal.  What happens next is the question.  Joe Paterno, who is in a position of instructor in this relationship, calls the athletic director.  It takes a ten days before anyone else asks the grad assistant what he saw. Then, it was the VP in charge of Finance.  What?  If this doesn't indicate that a cover-up was in progress, I don't know what is.  At this point, manditory reporters of child abuse were involved, and not calling University Police at this point is illegal.

However, is Joe Paterno's behavior unethical?  At this point, it is hard to gauge.  However, the fact that there was another victim who was molested in his facilities after he was fully aware of Sandusky's alleged behavior.  He permitted a possible child molestor to have unfettered access to the Penn State Campus and even if there was a close relationship between JoePa and this guy, he did nothing to convince him to step down from a position where he worked with vulnerable children.

The manditory reporting laws worked in this case.  When a wrestling coach at a high school suspected inappropriate behavior, the high school reported it to authorities.  However, if Penn State had been as dilligent, then there would not have been a Victim 1.  That's why the behavior is unethical and Joe Paterno, as a teacher, should have upheld higher standards.  Yes, he deserves to be fired.  If you remember the last part of A Few Good Men, the two Marines discuss why they were court martialed.  Yes, they had followed orders, but the ethical decision would have been to disobey the order.  JoePa did the cowardly thing... and I'm glad he's gone.

No comments:

Post a Comment