In the wake of the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State, Prof. Bennett Gershman tackles the subject of “institutional complacency” in his latest blog entry on the Huffington Post and in a radio appearance.
In his HuffPost piece, he raises the question:
If a culture of complacency and cover-up exists at Penn State with respect to the commission of such horrendous crimes by a prominent member of the Penn State “family,” what happens when a not-prominent female student complains to university officials about being sexually assaulted on campus? If an institutional culture can so casually ignore Sandusky’s young victims, wouldn’t that same culture likely ignore serious complaints of rape — indeed, serial rapes — by male students?
Gershman cites examples from numerous different universities to demonstrate that, in fact, “there appears to exist on many college campuses a judicial disciplinary system that critics claim is dysfunctional and unfair: judicial proceedings administered in secret, panel members with irreconcilable conflicts of interest, procedural and evidentiary rules that are standardless, and punishment that most often is a slap on the wrist.”
Indeed, the behavior of administrators of college disciplinary boards appears to parallel the behavior of Penn State officials during the period of Sandusky’s malevolent conduct — don’t look too closely, don’t say anything, and protect the university at all costs from bad publicity and liability. Keeping the lid on a potentially disastrous scandal is one way for big-time schools to protect the school’s reputation, as with the notorious basketball scandal at Binghamton University recently. A lax student disciplinary system accomplishes the same result: it preserves the school’s reputation, protects athletic departments and prominent athletes, keeps wealthy alums happy, and does not hurt local businesses which thrive on student drinking.
Gershman also appeared on the WVOX Radio show, “Crime and Justice with Dan Schorr,” to discuss the situation at Penn State, and other instances of serious crimes being ignored.