We are not Penn State: a former UM prof on making sure the right thing gets done

Submitted by Jon06 on November 14th, 2011 at 4:37 PM

Around these parts, you can skip the first 3 paragraphs, but this piece on the PSU situation by former M prof Peter Ludlow (nom de e-plume Urizenus Sklar) is worth reading for those who knew him or Candace Bolter, namesake of the UM Department of Philosophy's Bolter Fund.

For those who don't know him--which will be many, especially considering he left a few years ago for the greener pastures of the University of Toronto Northwestern after like a semester at Toronto--he was named one of the 10 most influential gamers by MTV in 2006, and also appeared on the Daily Show, which sent camerapeople to his (and my!) philosophy of language class to get a bit of candid video.



November 14th, 2011 at 4:52 PM ^

This is a great article.  It makes you think about whether you would be the one to keep driving to work (me?) or the one to get of my a-- and find that f-cking dog (me?) (fun Billy Madison reference to make me feel better after thinking I may be the one to drive on).

Interesting Story:    When I was in graduate school (McQueary's age), I heard my neighbor beating the hell out of his pregnant (!!!) girlfriend.  I couldn't ignore it and decided I needed to call the cops.  However, I had a dilemna (like McQueary?):  If my neighbor found out that I was the whistleblower, he could arguably make my life a living hell just by proximity.  I called my good friend and college athlete (i.e. McQueary's father) to see if he "had my back" in case the neighbor found out I called the cops and got physical.  After being reinforced, I called the cops.  After all was said and done, the woman was taken away by ambulance (!!!) and the neighbor was thrown in jail, never to be see/heard from again.  The analogy to McQueary's situation may or may not be a good one - I admittedly and realistically feared for my physical safety and McQueary arguably feared for his professional safety.  I like to think I did what most would do, but maybe not??


November 14th, 2011 at 5:00 PM ^

Your situation also presents the frightening but all too real possibility that the girlfriend also ends up pissed off at you for calling the cops on her man.  Having two psychos teaming up against you because you tried to do the right thing is about as mind-boggling and frustrating as it gets.


November 14th, 2011 at 5:08 PM ^

What you have to ask, of course, is whether you can live with yourself while ignoring the fact that someone (who you don't yet know will turn against you) is being abused...There was an incident a couple of years ago at my old apartment complex wherein a woman and her young children came running out of their building.  I started running in their direction, expecting to eventually find myself between them and some huge dude (I expected this b/c the woman was pretty large herself).  I was relieved to find out that the woman was running from a fire.  My plan may not have been the smartest thing, but I decided that I couldn't just stand there and watch while a woman and her kids were chased out of their house.     


November 14th, 2011 at 5:18 PM ^

In my case, I had a few minutes to think and plan.  You had neither!  But you're right in that the final question you have to ask is whether or not you can live with the thought of knowing that you stood by and did nothing or not as much as you could have done.  I imagine that Paterno & Co. have lived and are going to live the rest of their lives with a HUGE sense of regret.  An asterisk on their life story, so to speak.



November 14th, 2011 at 6:02 PM ^

You did the right thing, and this requires congratulations.

I guess the only difference would be you had a back-up plan for the physical harm (your friend).  I think that McQuery didn't have a back-up plan for his career.  I'm really going out on a limb on this one though....

Oh, and you had a sense of morals.


November 14th, 2011 at 6:11 PM ^

How does that make any sense?

Other college football program: Mike, we feel your time as a QB at Penn State instilled a lot of good football and life skills in you.  You could be a great contributor on our staff.  However, you bashed in the skull/ratted out (whatever you would have done in the situation) of a someone who you caught in the act of molesting a child.  Sorry, we just can't have you on our staff.


November 14th, 2011 at 5:19 PM ^

also his handle together with the unmarked sarcasm remind of the official slogan of andrew jackson's hermitage estate:

Andrew Jackson, the Douchey President

(just kidding, sort of. the hermitage is exceptional in that it pulls no punches about jackson being an asshole in thinking of his slaves as chattels.)


November 14th, 2011 at 4:57 PM ^

that poor boy from Sandusky.  But this article made me look deeper to see if the extremeness of that situation and no one else being there to help would be what it would take to motivate me.  Would I have stopped what I was doing to hunt down the pit bull or persist with the video game provider?  I hope I can recall this article the next time I see a situation that I can too easily pass by as someone else's problem.  Thank you for bringing this article up.  A better perspective that makes what McQueary and the PSU administration didn't do that much worse.


November 14th, 2011 at 7:17 PM ^

This article gives a good overview of why McQueary (or anyone else who sees a mentor/authority figure performing a crime) doesn't automatically immediately become a "hero" and put a quick end to any (real or perceived) criminal act, even heinous ones.


Some key quotes:

"“The human mind has the capacity to spin anything to suit what we want to believe,” Dr. Lubit goes on. “So you make excuses to yourself. ‘There must be some other explanation.’


"Humans are programmed to not question authority, Dr. Lubit says. Men are especially hierarchical, particularly when they work in organizations made up largely of other men."

In short, as you noted, it takes real active effort to shake yourself out your pre-conceived notions/natural caution and DO something, especially immediately.  That's why you always hear cops/soliders/first responders say "The training kicked in" when the respond have some disaster/crime - without that training building up their mind, they would likely not have any idea what to do, so would most likely do nothing.


November 14th, 2011 at 5:21 PM ^

I haven't read the grand jury stuff or any of the other details, but in this piece it claims Sandusky was in the act of raping this kid when McQueary walked in (which in my mind means forced sexual intercourse).  Fucking a kid against his will is (I can only imagine) going to involve some serious brutality and probably plenty of screaming, thrashing, crying, bleeding etc. on the part of the kid.  That doesn't seem like something you would label as simply "inappropriate".  It also isn't the kind of thing that I could see anybody walking away from.

On the other hand, some level of creepy/illegal touching in the shower or even just a dude alone in the shower with a kid (especially being perpetrated by a guy like Sandusky who was up until then a very respected figure) seems like the kind of thing that could be cause for confusion and "What the fuck do I do now?" questions. 

Not to say the latter scenario exonerates McQueary, but it does seem like a very different situation than seeing somebody push a kid (or anyone for that matter) up against the wall and force intercourse on them.  I don't see how anyone could ever ignore that kind of violence and physical harm being perpetrated on somebody, nor could I see any doubt about what was going on.  On the other hand, if that isn't what happened, these articles (and I've read others using the same verbiage) should probably be more specific about what McQueary walked away from.

Blue in Seattle

November 14th, 2011 at 6:25 PM ^

as a side note, I really don't understand why people think it's faster to ask a discussion board to answer a question that a simple search on Google will answer.

Go search for the grand jury report, it's incredibly easy to find and pretty short to read, and then you get the benefit of making up your own mind on top of it!

Among the many things that I can't wrap my head around is the fact that McQuery gave this information to the grandjury well before football season started!  And I'm sure part of the investigation was contacting Joe Paterno, the AD, and the President, since at least the AD and President have responses documented in the Grand Jury finding/report.

These guys knew they were facing a legal trial months ago, and kept on goign forward to help Joe to win 409.  Sure, these are allegations and the trial hasn't been conducted yet, but the reason that McQuery is being protected is because he's the key witness in all of this.  The rest of the testimony is circumstancial, or the victums making claims on Sandusky.

Officially, the trial needs to be conducted, but since some of the victims are now 24+ years old, I'm not thinking this is just children not remembering events correctly.  Even the victum that McQuery saw is now 20+.  So while I want to believe people are innocent until proven guilty, I gotta think that prosecutors have gone to a lot of trouble to persecute someone just on a slim chance of a conviction.

Bottom line, go make up your own mind with information you can easily find.


November 14th, 2011 at 5:30 PM ^

So he had to be forced to do the right thing and then he "learned" from it and the dog that was attacked was most likely euthanized for defending itself. His writing and word choice shows he's perfectly fine with discrimintion against dogs based on breed, something I fight against every day. It is ignorance and I'm disappointed a professor would subscribe to such ideas.


November 14th, 2011 at 5:40 PM ^

This retired FBI agent worked with Bo and says he would have handled the Sandusky situation differently:


You know the first part of the article, so skip to this part:


In comparison, I pose the hypothetical question: What would Bo Schembechler have done?

Bo is a man I did know. Bo was a legendary football coach at Michigan from 1969-1989 and a peer of Paterno.
To the best of my knowledge, Bo never had to deal with any of his staff being alleged child molesters. He did have situations that required staff and players having to take responsibility for their acts even if it might reflect badly on Michigan, a place he loved and revered.

In 1987, the FBI was investigating two sports agents, Norby Walters and Lloyd Bloom, who had ties to organized crime. Walters and Bloom had worked up a scam where they bribed blue-chip college football players to sign post-dated, secret, agency contracts while they were still eligible to play college football - a clear violation of NCAA rules. Ultimately some of the players balked, threats were made by Walters and Bloom, and the whole thing fell apart. Players who had signed the contracts were identified. They were all star players on prominent college teams. Two of the players were on Bo's 1986 Michigan team.

When Bo found out, he was livid. He called one of the players, Garland Rivers, an All-American DB, into the office and had Rivers tell him the whole story. Then Bo called me.


November 14th, 2011 at 6:05 PM ^

This may be nitpicking, but the author should throw in there that McQueary allegedly witnessed all this.  I believe Sandusky is guilty, but he hasn't been convicted yet. 


November 14th, 2011 at 6:31 PM ^

This is the thing that has been on my mind about the situation now. I believe Sandusky is guilty, and should burn for what he (allegedly) did. We're in a situation here where even the President of the United States is condemning the man on national tv. Again, I'm not advocating for anything here but due process seems to be out the window on this one.