Last Thursday, Graham Spanier- who served as Penn State University's president for 16 years prior to being ousted last November - was charged with perjury, obstruction, endangering the welfare of children, failure to properly report suspected abuse and conspiracy for his involvement in the case against Sandusky for child sexual abuse.
After reading an ESPN report last Thursday on the charges that are facing Spanier there was one thing at the very end of the article that I found to be the most interesting thing of all, which was that Spanier himself had been an abused child.
According to the report, in a letter to Penn State's board of trustees in July, Spanier not only informed them that he had suffered abuse at the hands of his father, but that "It is unfathomable and illogical to think that a respected family sociologist and family therapist, someone who personally experienced massive and persistent abuse as a child, someone who devoted a significant portion of his career to the welfare of children and youth ... would have knowingly turned a blind eye to any report of child abuse or predatory sexual acts directed at children."
It seems as though that is what he did though. In 2001, emails were exchanged between Spanier and former athletic director Tim Curly - who along with former vice president for business and finance, Gary Schultz, had additional counts added to their previous charges of lying to a grand jury and failing to report suspected child abuse last week. In an email, Curly proposed that rather than reporting Sandusky to the authorities that they tell him he needed help and that he could no longer bring children into the Penn State facilities. Spanier, for whatever reason, thought this was a "humane and reasonable way to proceed," according to the ESPN article, but recognized that if Sandusky did not receive the message and nothing was done that the university would then be vulnerable for not having reported it.
When the scandal was first reported last year, I, like I'm sure many other people, was disgusted by what Sandusky had done and sickened that those around him that were in the know - such as Spanier and Joe Paterno, among others - chose to cover it up rather than do the right thing and report it. Knowing now that Spanier was a victim of abuse just makes the fact that he covered up what Sandusky did that much worse.
I understand that he was trying to protect the school's reputation. On a personal level maybe he liked Sandusky and was also caught in a moral dilemma. What I don't understand though is how he could hear of multiple incidents of child sexual abuse having been abused as a child himself - albeit maybe not in the same way - and think that covering it up and trying to get Sandusky help was the "humane and reasonable way to proceed." Where was his sympathy, empathy and compassion for the kids Sandusky had abused?
How is it that they did not seem to factor in his decision, especially given his background?
What will happen to Spanier remains to be seen, but I think bringing charges against him was the right thing to do. It's unfortunate, to say the least, that Spanier did not choose to take action.
Now, one can only hope that he's punished accordingly.
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