Commentary: Doing The Right Thing

By Derrell Connor Special To Channel 3000

Watching the Penn State sexual abuse/rape scandal unfold has been sickening, with new revelations and discoveries each day and no immediate end in sight. The questions of who knew what, when they knew it and what they did about it have dominated the news cycle.

The failure of Penn State’s leadership to do the right thing — protect children from a sexual predator — is inexcusable. That is the reason why coach Joe Paterno, athletic director Tim Curley, senior vice president for finance and business Gary Schultz and president Graham Spanier are no longer at the university today.

If Jerry Sandusky is found guilty of the more than 40 counts of abuse levied against him, he will spend years in prison where he can’t hurt any more children. As for Paterno, Schultz and Spanier, not only do they have to live with the fact that they allowed Jerry Sandusky to roam free around the Penn State campus but also they have to live with the fact that they didn’t do the right thing.

Penn State wide receivers coach Mike McQueary now says that he notified authorities after walking in on Sandusky and a boy in the shower. But he also admitted that he didn’t physically stop Sandusky that day. While we can all agree that it was a horrible thing to see, what’s interesting is that it’s probably safe to assume that if this were instead a fight between Sandusky and a player, McQueary would have intervened. Most of us would have. But in the case of what McQueary witnessed, what would any of us do if you were in his shoes? Would you stop it? Would you turn and run for help or call authorities? Would you just walk away and pretend that you didn?t see anything?

If McQueary did contact the police, then neither they nor members of Penn State’s leadership took the necessary steps to get Sandusky away from campus and into custody. It seems they cared more about protecting themselves and the reputation of the university than helping the children that Sandusky allegedly harmed. The thought of that boggles the mind.

Over the past week, there’s been a lot of talk about the lack of leadership, responsibility and accountability at Penn State. It makes one wonder: why is it so hard for some people to do the right thing?

Unfortunately, this is not surprising. There have been many documented cases of muggings, robberies, assaults, rapes and even murders over the years where witnesses have been present and chose not to get involved. How can some people look the other way while terrible things happen to others? What do they fear? The potential of putting ourselves in the middle of a dangerous situation for someone who isn’t family? Perhaps it’s because we as a society have made it difficult to do the right thing. Someone warns police about thugs in their neighborhood? They are called a snitch. An employee who reports illegal activity involving executives? They are called whistleblowers. From regular people to high-profile athletes, entertainers and politicians, many have been reluctant to do and say what’s right for fear of having their jobs and fame taken away, being ostracized, and even putting their lives in danger.

The fact is that with all of the outrage about what happened at Penn State, we as a society have made it difficult for people to step up, speak out and do what’s right. We often spend so much time focusing on the wrongdoers that the real issues (the wrongs) are lost, and instead of praising and rewarding the brave people who come forward, they are often forgotten.

But that was then, this is now. We cannot forget what has happened to these now young men. I hope that the tragedy at Penn State will finally wake all of us up to the realization that we as adults have to set an example. We have a responsibility, a duty. Perhaps from now on, when faced with a difficult situation, we will remember four simple words: Do the right thing.