Guest Commentary: The real cost of the Penn State scandal
Posted: 11/20/2011 01:00:00 AM MST Source: denverpost.com
By Beth Ralph
The Penn State scandal shows how far the issue of protecting the $70-million-a-year football dynasty prevails over accountability in this country.
Apparently shielding the university and the football program came first. Joe Paterno learned his assistant assaulted a ten-year-old boy in the shower of the locker room and eventually told his superiors. He didn’t call the cops and neither did his superiors.
The alleged attacker, a former member of the coaching staff, was told to keep his activities off-campus, but no one bothered to identify the child or see what he needed. Now the list is up to eight young boys, with probably more to come.
This scandal is similar to the Catholic Church’s cover-up of child abuse by the clergy. It took decades of action by the abuse victims and dedicated journalists before the problem was finally recognized and addressed. Just like in the Penn State situation, many victims would have been spared if firmer action had been taken years earlier.
Don’t get me wrong. I love football. We had season tickets to the Broncos for 50 years. But football is not more important than our children. My son Dan was (according to Parade Magazine) one of the top high school recruits in the country in 1979. He played football at Northglenn High School.
When the colleges were recruiting, I could not believe how exciting it was – and the morning he could sign, we had 7 coaches on our porch still trying to talk him into going to their college. He signed with the University of Colorado. I was so thrilled because I would be able to see him play. It was the Chuck Fairbanks era and CU had a terrible team. Dan transferred to the University of Oregon after his sophomore year, at the suggestion of his defensive line coach.
The football program treated the boys in some ways like they were kings, in some ways as if they were cattle. When it was time to register, Dan got to stay in the weight room while assistants went around and registered the players. His girlfriend had a track scholarship and she had to stand in line for 8-10 hours to register.
When Dan went to games, the team flew in jets; when his girlfriend went to track meets, they took a van. It was the football program that brought the money in. I believe that they gave Dan steroids. I wanted at one time to investigate this, and Dan told me to “just leave it alone, Mom.” He weighed about 185 when he went to CU, and about 215 when he transferred to Oregon.
In Oregon, his weight got up to about 285. I know he was taking steroids, as his girlfriend, who later became his wife, told me that not too long ago.
He made All Big 10 1st Team Unanimous Choice when he was a senior. He was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, then traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. He was listed in Sports Illustrated as the 2nd strongest player in the NFL. He hurt his back and had to have back surgery. When he went back to practice after recovering, he bench pressed 600 lbs, injured his back immediately, had another surgery, and was told if he played and injured his back again, he could be paralyzed.
So he quit. But my point is, it was the football program that was important, not the young men. His wife also told me that after the games in St. Louis, the whole team would go in a house boat down the Mississippi River and could have any drugs they wanted.
When I first came back to Colorado after getting my nursing degree in California, I was working nights. My shift followed the day charge nurse, and I took over her patients. The patients were always complaining of pain. When I looked on their records, I would see that pain medication had been put in their pump, yet they kept complaining.
One day I came in early and talked to the pharmacist, then gave him the bag from the pump to analyze. The pain medication was missing from the bag. I knew I had to report it or I could lose my license, even though I knew I was taking a chance that I could get fired if they just believed the charge nurse.
The next day, I went to the director and explained my suspicions. Shortly after that, the charge nurse was put on leave of absence and I heard she went to rehab. So, I do understand how the assistant and the janitor in the Penn State case felt scared to tell. But again, what about the victims?
We can’t just be worried about the money.
Beth Ralph is a retired nurse who lives in Arvada. Her son died in 2010, at the age of 49.
And from Brian Leiter”:
A former Penn State department head filed a federal lawsuit against the university and two university officials, alleging that he was removed as philosophy department head for reporting discrimination and harassment within his department.
Mitchell Aboulafia, who was the philosophy department head from July 2003 to March 2004, filed a lawsuit against the university, College of the Liberal Arts Dean Susan Welch and former Associate Dean Ron Filippelli for a breach of contract, violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and violation of First and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
According to a 23-page brief Aboulafia’s attorney filed last August, current and former senior faculty members in the department discriminated against and severely harassed students and graduate teaching assistants on the basis of sex, ethnicity and religion. When he tried to report the alleged discrimination, Aboulafia said he was removed as head of the department and demoted to faculty status, according to the court documents.
Professor Aboulafia’s complaint alleged:
15. During Dr. Aboulafia’s tenure as Head of the Department, he received numerous, troubling reports involving the conduct of certain Department faculty members.
16. These reports concerned incidents of discrimination and harassment on the basis of sex, ethnicity and religion by current and former faculty members in the Department directed towards students, graduate teaching assistants, and junior faculty members; discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and ethnicity by current and former faculty members in the Department against prospective faculty members and graduate students; and the severe harassment and humiliation of students and graduate teaching assistants by faculty members.
17. While these reports involved several senior faculty members, many of the most serious reports involved one particular senior professor, who oversaw the academic work of graduate students in his role as a teacher and dissertation director and oversaw the students’ work as graduate teaching assistants in his role as Director of Graduate Studies.