The truth is if you stand up for principles against the power structure you will most often be made to pay for trying to get in their way. And most often you won't succeed.
In Penn State the few who tried to stand up against injustice are now seen in a positive light. But the full Penn State power structure was able to undermine decency, even when that extended all the way to what is the most indecent act possible. Only that most intolerable abuse finally brought enough weight (thought it took more than a decade) for the immoral actions of those in power to stop being accepted.
All the lessor abuses by those in power were not enough. They were not remotely close to enough. Those protesting those abuses are seen as pariahs. Winning football (or basketball) games is much more important to those in leadership positions than behaving honorably. Even today the Board of Penn State sees retaining the statue of Joe Paterno as the right thing to do (my guess is they will realize the big mistake this is soon and reverse course - but I figured the abuses of the TSA couldn't stand for long and I was completely wrong about that). They are more fearful of powerful alumni that might still object then they are concerned about doing the incredibly too little too late of at least stopping honoring a man that disgraced their University.
Even once the scope of wrongdoing was obviously far far worse than should ever be tolerated and the board fired Joe Patero, there were riots protesting this action. How shameful that behavior was. How completely had the leaders of those that engaged in that behavior failed to create honorable people.
The complete failure of leadership evidenced by decades of utter failure at Penn State is the example. But the system that allowed it is pervasive at nearly all our Universities. They are lead by people that subvert integrity to pleasing the powerful.
I think they need to have these "leaders" sit in the undergraduate seminars where ethics and morality are discussed and talk about the real issues. University leaders seem to think that morality and ethics are meant for the ancient greeks only, not them. They obviously believe (as shown in their actions) that might makes right is the primary moral measuring stick. I think that it would help to take that message into the educational system so we can address the real issues to where the boundaries are for that style of leadership. Because pretending that what is taught about right and wrong in their schools relates to the real world when in practice political expediency takes such a huge precedence over what is right for the "leaders" in our society is not helping.That we finally have people saying what the facts show, is a good sign: Joe Paterno was a coward. Rick Reilly admits that he was fooled by Joe Paterno
What a stooge I was.Penn State leaders can't hide their guilt after damning Freeh Report
I talked about Paterno's "true legacy" in all of this. Here's his true legacy: Paterno let a child molester go when he could've stopped him. He let him go and then lied to cover his sinister tracks. He let a rapist go to save his own recruiting successes and fundraising pitches and big-fish-small-pond hide. Here's a legacy for you. Paterno's cowardice and ego and fears allowed Sandusky to molest at least eight more boys in the years after that 1998 incident
"Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State," Freeh wrote in his summary of his report. "The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky's victims until after Sandusky's arrest."
My guess on what impact this will have on other University leaders acting ethically and morally instead of caving into power: very minimal. They will continue to cave into power to make their lives as easy as possible. Decades of behavior just doesn't change overnight. As long as the "leaders" are put in those positions mainly because they make things easy for those with power that is the main thing that will drive their actions.
If we want that to change we have to change the character of those placed in leadership positions. And we need to change what influences carry the most weight. As long as it is the football coach, boosters, large donors... then we will have the situation we have had. The worst abuses at Penn State with covering up child abuse would not have been tolerated at many other places. But the system that results in such cover ups being possible is firmly in place at most and is used to continue much more mundane abuse of power.
Penn State should be congratulated for hiring Louis Freeh. They finally stopped trying to protect those doing the abuse and those covering up for those doing so. Good for them.
I am sure Joe Paterno did plenty of good things. As a leader, critical failures that persist for over a decade can, and should, overshadow the good when it comes to our opinion of their character. They can still have done plenty of good things. But leaders failing to protect the innocent and powerless and allowing them to be abused deserve to have their reputations destroyed.Related: The Moral Consequences of Your Actions - Don't Excuse Immoral Looters - Action Is More Important Than Sympathy - They Will Know We are Christians By Our Love