Mike McQueary and Me


Do you know what you would do, in Mike McQueary's place? Are you sure?

I have defended Mike McQueary, the graduate student assistant coach who, according to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s report, witnessed Jerry Sandusky raping a young boy in the Penn State showers in 2002 and told Joe Paterno, to this extent: he took the crucial step of reporting the incident to the coach, his boss as a graduate student assistant coach, and that took courage. Because of Paterno’s reputation as a moral and ethical exemplar, the young man had no reason to believe that Paterno would not do all the right things, from confronting Sandusky to finding the boy to alerting the police. (As we now know, Paterno did none of these.)

Even so, he had to believe he was in a career jeopardizing situation. Sandusky was a Penn State football legend, though retired, and presumably had Paterno’s loyalty. Would being the messenger that created liability and public relations problems for his boss’s beloved football program make McQueary a pariah even if it resulted in Sandusky’s arrest? That scenario is not uncommon, unfortunately.

That is why, when a commenter wrote that McQueary was more culpable for Penn State’s inaction than Paterno, I disagreed strenuously, and I still do. Paterno had power, given his iconic status, perhaps the ultimate power. If he had insisted that Sandusky be confronted, removed, and reported to police, it would have happened, and would have happened completely within his natural sphere of influence. For McQueary, however, to track the university’s response and independently take action to stop Sandusky would require exemplary valor. I wish he had done it. But he had placed his faith in Joe Paterno, and at Penn State, that should be a sure bet.

I think it is easy for any of us to conclude that in Joe Paterno’s place, we would not have allowed Sandusky to continue preying on young boys. What would we do in Mike McQueary’s position, however…putting aside the action of physically intervening in the rape itself? There is a reason why the first thing he did was to go home and call his dad for advice. He never, never considered what he would do in such a situation, because never, in his wildest dreams, did he imaging such a crisis occurring.

Never underestimate the difficulty of making the right ethical decision in an unexpected crisis.

I also sympathize with McQueary, because I had my own Mike McQueary moment years ago.

I was 35, and had been out of work for 8 months, looking hard. Nothing much else was going right in my life either, but a good job would do a lot to turn things around, and I found one when I had a terrific interview with the acting Executive Director of a large trade foundation. He created a new position tailored to my experience and interests. He would be my direct supervisor, and we hit it off immediately.

Then, after only a week on the job, his secretary came into my office and closed the door. I was her only hope, she said; my boss (and hers) was beloved—and powerful— in the association, and nobody else would help her. He had been harassing her, she said, pushing hard for her to sleep with him. She liked him…he was over 60, with an invalid wife, and she felt sorry for him…but she didn’t want to submit, and the pressure was driving her crazy. If it didn’t stop, she said, she might just quit, and as a single mother, she really needed the job.

She wanted me to report her dilemma to the general counsel, my boss’s best friend on staff, on her behalf, to see if he would take the initiative and address the problem without her having to take official action.
And I did. The general counsel made it clear to me that she would have to file a complaint herself for him to take action, and “he didn’t advise it.” He said he would keep our conversation confidential, but that nothing was going to happen. I told her about the meeting, and she quit a few weeks later.

In four years, a major sexual harassment scandal involving my boss broke out, and he was fired and ruined. Apparently, in the interim, he had harassed more than a dozen female employees, and had sex with more than a few. I ultimately had to testify against him, and he never spoke to me after that.
My dilemma those many years ago had much in common with McQueary’s plight. I was fearful about my own job security, and was in a precarious state professionally. Being aligned against my patron and supervisor, who, like Paterno, was regarded as the dean of the staff, was the last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to help the young woman who had come to me for help, but I also felt that it was unfair that I, as a brand new hire, suddenly was being made responsible for solving an association personnel problem not of my making. I took action, but not enough action.

And I was wrong. I had an ethical duty to follow up when it became clear that the general counsel wasn’t going to act. I needed to make sure, to the best of my ability, that the woman who had come to me for help, and future potential victims of my boss, my friend, a workplace predator, were protected, and it was clear, or should have been, that if I didn’t do anything about it, nobody would.

It was a lesson that I vowed to remember: when fate puts you in the situation where you are the one person who can right a wrong, the fact that it wasn’t your fault is irrelevant, and is no excuse for not fixing the problem. The likely disruption to my job and danger to my career? Too bad. I had to make sure that the serial harasser stopped hurting people. Instead, I allowed myself to rationalize that I had done all I was obligated to do.

Just like Mike McQueary.


93 thoughts on “Mike McQueary and Me

  1. I have a similar story and I kick myself to this day. I wish I could go back knowing what I know now.

    Again I am VERY disappointed in Mr Paterno.

    • “Putting aside the act of physically intervening in the rape itself”? That’s convenient. Do you have children, grandchildren, or any emotional attachment to anyone other than yourself?

      And, am I sure as to what I would do in the same situation? Yes. Twenty years ago I witnessed a 250 monster strangling a 100 pound female in rural South Carolina. I physically intervened, knowing this enraged man, much larger and stronger than myself, could kill me. I didn’t even think about the consequences. I just acted. That, sir, is what most people would do.


      • 1) Congratulations for having the courage to do the right thing.
        2) That, sir, is NOT what most people would do, and you are foolish or dishonest to say so. That’s why such people are called “heroes,”
        3) “Do you have children, grandchildren, or any emotional attachment to anyone other than yourself?” There is no justification for this comment. So I know you are a hero and a jerk. Interesting.
        4) Yes, it is convenient, since I was writing about an aspect of the incident I chose to write about.

  2. First, let me say that I believe that the firing of Paterno and Spanier are absolutely justified and required. Personally, I think it’s too bad that charges are not also filed against them.

    As far as your defense of McQueary goes, it’s hardly compelling or well argued. And your circumstances and those of McQueary are hardly comparable. McQueary had a responsibility to STOP THE ASSAULT IN FRONT OF HIM. PERIOD. He had a responsibility to intervene in the moment. Or do you imagine that a 10-year old boy is capable of consensual sex? Do you also believe that a 10-year old boy is capable of either extricating himself from physical harm or advocating for himself as an adult might be able to do — with the University’s General Counsel. Mr. Boyd, your capacity to reason and to draw subtle distinctions are poor at best..

    • Well, Denise, until I read your comment, I doubted a recent report that said that 70% of commenters on websites and blogs don’t completely read the posts they comment on. Did you miss the sentence where I exempted the failure to stop the rape on the spot from the discussion? Of course there was an ethical obligation to do that on McQueary’s part—so it’s not worth arguing over. Nor am I “defending” McQueary unequivocally: my point was and is that those he reported to, especially Paterno, were more culpable, not less.
      NOR did I imply—to anyone actually reading the essay—that my experience was analogous with his in all respects. My point was that having been in a situation where taking the initiative in seeing a workplace abuse response through to the end when you are in a precarious employment position and you know that the power structure is resisting is 1) hard and personally risky 2) not as easy as McQueary’s critics—who are all trying to make excuses for Paterno by shifting blame, including you—would like to think and 3) that I, unlike you, speak from personal experience.

      Apparently you also missed the highlighted section what I said my own response was wrong, meaning that, if you understand amalogy, so was McQueary. And, of course, the offense that he didn’t stop was far worse than serial sexual harassment, but I didn’t suggest otherwise.
      I am happy to entertain criticism of my analyses; indeed, that’s why I write them. I do have the minimal requirement that before someone accuses my argument as being “hardly compelling or well argued”, they read what I actually write, and show the capacity to understand it. What in my post suggests to you that I think the boy was consenting to sex (the term “rape” specifically designates otherwise)? It is easy to argue against a statement if you distort what the statement is to make no sense. You couldn’t even figure out who the author of the post was! (Hint: it’s not Mr. Boyd.)

      Try reading an argument carefully before dashing off a non-responsive and insulting rebuttal; it’s fairer, doesn ‘t make you look so foolish, and contributes something relevant to the discussion.

      • I read your entire piece. Maybe the problem isn’t me or Bert. Maybe the problem is your writing. Maybe your initial blog is not as clear as you think. Maybe the problem is the construction of your argument. Go back and read your piece again. Better yet, have an editor take a look at it. And then read my response again. The issue you make regarding failure to “follow-up” is moot. Point of fact: McQueary witnessed a felony sexual assault against a minor and did nothing to intervene. He ran away. He left the child there to suffer through that assault.

        As a minor, that 10-year-old is defined as a “vulnerable person.” I work with vulnerable persons. There is no gray area that mitigates the irresponsibility and immorality of McQueary’s inaction at that point in time. Your comment, “Never underestimate the difficulty of making the right ethical decision in an unexpected crisis,” in this context is so absurd that it verges on offensive. The example you use from your own professional life is hardly comparable, and your lengthy discussion regarding “follow-up” is secondary to the primary issue in McQueary’s case.

        • You have an agenda, and you want to read my post as addressing it. The fact of McQueary’s failure to follow up was NOT moot, since he still might have ended the issue in 2002, despite failing to inntervene in the rape itself. You don’t understand the post—too bad. You want it to be about the failure to stop the rape…a violent assault, on the spot. I wasn’t writing about that, and I was clear. Nor do I make excuses for his failure to intervene, except to note, accurately, that it is always hard to do the right thing immediately, or even figure out waht that is, when one is shocked, stressed, and surprised. The people who automatically do the courageous thing are admirable and remarkable, but they are not the norm.

          Of course he should have shouted “Stop!” or physically intervened. I think that’s obvious. You can find about four places on the blog where I have explicitly written so. The post was not about that issue. Neither was my post about Kim Kardashian.

          If you read my entire piece, then you wilfully misrepresented it. I am not always as clear as I should be, but this was not a problem in this case. The title, which frames the piece, was about how my personal experinece informed my understanding of the relevant aspect of McQueary’s conduct. I’ve never been in a situation where something of the magnitude of a child rape was occuring in front of me. I thnk I’d do the right thing. But I wasn’t writing about that, and you critiqued the piece as if I were. Wrong.

      • Michael McQueary is a scumbag POS coward that allowed a ten year old boy to continue being raped by a monster, making no effort what-so-ever to save him or at the very least yell or scream to get the monster off the child. He did nothing. He ran away, fled. And called his daddy, and his daddy told him to get out of there, let the boy continue to be raped, come home now son. McQueary and his father should both be put in jail. There is no excuse possible. There is no explanation. For allowing an innocent 10 year old boy to be raped, sodomized, anally raped. And then to run away, having done nothing. It’s despicable and Michael McQueary will live with his crime for the rest of his life. I weep for the boy Sandusky raped and McQueary helped that rape and allowed it to continue….I weep for the boy…McQueary will rot in hell…

          • no measured analysis is needed…it’s very simple…mcqueary had the absolute moral obligation to attempt to stop a 10 year old boy from being raped (brutally anally sodomized) – and he didnt. he didnt do anything. except move up the ranks as PS football coach as part of the cover up of a crime. Plain and simple – no analysis needed…it’s in his own words…you should read the entire grand jury report as I did…

            • I did read it. He didn’t say that he participated in a cover-up. i agree that that was the effect.
              I’d like to see your list of categories of crime in which there is an “absolute moral obligation” for an individual to intervene. Really? regardless of size, age, health, gender, capability or tolearnce of violence? I’ll be waiting. Should be fascinating.

    • Ms. Kulawik,

      It’s very easy to make assumptions and presumptions. I am guilty of making these as well. Every situation is not the same. I have been in situations where doing the right thing was not easy. I worked for an organization where integrity was subjective.This was a highly professional organization. The organization had rules, creeds, mottos and oaths which were imperative to the vocation. Life and death situations were at stake. I witnessed things that were entirely against my principles, morals and ethics. I saw people blackballed and ostracized for doing the right thing. People ended up branded for life and sometimes even incarcerated. The incarcerations were an indirect result. The consequences of not living up to my own integrity and fundamental principles has affected me for years and at times been detrimental to my psyche.

      As far as Mr. McQueary; I don’t know the entire situation. He did what he felt he could do at that time. I am sure he has some guilt that he is living with. I really do sympathize with him. He was more than likely shocked. It was someone he trusted. In some ways probably his mentor. I wish I can say I can’t imagine the thoughts, daydreams, and nightmares that Mr. McQueary has. It is easy to take an outward perspective when the situation is not right in front of you.

      Mr. Paterno should have done something at sometime. I am shocked that whenever he saw the perpetrator or victim, he didn’t feel any responsibility. Especially to the victim. There is also responsibility to himself, the football program, the school and even Jerry Sandusky if he was able to be rehabilitaded or at least prevented from being around young people. Mr. Paterno had what I thought was an ironclad sense of values. The college football programs across the nation that are able to compete at a high level are often under suspicion for questionable recruiting practices, money, ethics, and their academic standards. I admired and respected Mr. Paterno for the appearance of having impeccable standards on and off the field. I was wrong. I am disappointed in my judgement.

      Mr. Marshall used his own experiences to show that these situations are difficult, especially when your ethics and standards are high. He never wrote that he approved of anything that anyone did. He also showed that he has remorse for something that he could of done something about and didn’t. That is an extremely difficult pill to swallow and live with. He has genuine sympathy for Mr. McQueary. With the discipline that he is extremely passionate about it is even more of a burden to carry. I don’t always see eye to eye with Mr. Marshall, but he has his head on right about these situations.

      Ms. Kulawik, I am a novice about ethics. I am far from perfect. I have trouble with keeping my ego in check as most men do. I am learning. Things aren’t always as they seem. I hope you are able to learn from this blog. I don’t think it is fair to judge people on a few sentences or paragraphs. Please, before you condemn, take some time to reflect and realize that people are not as infallible in their ethics as you are. Ethics and human nature are often at odds with each other. Just give people a chance in this forum. It is a great place to exercise your thoughts on ethics and morals. Prejudice can be awfully ugly!

      P.S. These are my thoughts before I was interrupted with my other parts of my life. They were before Jack responded. On this one Jack, I think I read and interpreted the blog correctly?

      • Dear Mr. Boyd —

        I do apologize if my misidentification of you as the author of the original essay created any confusion. I wasn’t actually responding to your post. My comments were directed toward Jack Marshall’s original essay.

        This said, my point on the original essay is — quite simply — this: it’s whole premise is fatally flawed, and Marshall’s analogy is specious at best.

        Mike McQueary faced no complex moral/ethical dilemma. In fact, he faced no moral/ethical dilemma at all. Sometimes standards of conduct are quite clear. In the case of the protection of vulnerable persons (and all children qualify as such), the expectation of witnesses to intervene on behalf of a victim is absolute — especially in the case of felony sexual assault. There is no grey area here. Any reasonable person witnessing such a scene would understand it to be non-consensual sex with a minor. This is not a complex situation as is sometimes the case in alleged sexual harassment where both parties are adults over the age of consent.

        Even if one pardoned McQueary for extricating himself from the scene of the crime by virtue of shock or fear for his own safety, he had a clear and unquestionable responsibility as a University employee to contact the police immediately and to remain nearby to aid in Sandusky’s arrest as well as provide aid to the victim. The issue of “follow through” is a non-issue, and Jack Marshall’s entire essay is so much dross.

        Best regards,

        • Ms. Kulawik
          Jack’s point wasn’t that he condoned anything nor that it was a difficult decision. You said that “Any reasonable person witnessing such a scene would understand it to be non-consensual sex with a minor.” I won’t argue that. But I will argue that there are times when people are unable to rationalize and/or be reasonable when they are in shock. Mr. McQueary was stunned, shocked and I’m sure overwhelmed with emotion. He may have even suffered some sort of mental breakdown. He screwed up. He froze. The moment took him by surprise. I sympathize with him. Who knows what his state of mind was when he saw what he saw. His dad may even been stunned, shocked or in disbelief when he heard it from his son. It took them off guard. That is a precarious situation I can relate with. Not everyone is “conditioned” to make rational decisions at a drop of the hat. Jack’s essay was not dross…I don’t think you understand.

          • Here’s my point. He may have” screwed up.” He may have” froze”. He may have “been in shock.” All as you suggest.

            None of that is relevant to the point at hand. The point is that there is no ethical/moral conundrum. What you’re describing is the personal failure of someone to follow clear ethical/moral guidelines and imperatives, NOT the existence of an ethical/moral conundrum itself. These are two different things. No ethical/moral conundrum exists.

            Were you or I in that position and we acted as McQueary acted (for whatever reason), we too would have failed to follow clear ethical/moral guidelines and imperatives. It doesn’t really matter what the reason is.

            • Denise: there are three kinds of ethical problems, and McQueary’s was one of them. It is called an ethical dilemma—ethical considerations opposed by non-ethical considerations, such as personal welfare. It is the most commmon, and most difficult kind of ethical problem. You can’t just eliminate one side of the equation. I agree with you regarding what the result should be, but it is still a problem.

              • Jack — Here, apparently, we get to the crux of our disagreement. Your point holds if there are truly competing moral imperatives of relatively equal value. .There is no relative equal value among imperatives here. In fact, in a Kantian sense (at least), there is truly only one imperative — the imperative to protect the vulnerable person. An “imperative” in ethics must be “principled.” While “personal welfare” can, in many contexts, reflect a “principled” and competing imperative (for example, let us say the difficulty a woman might have in deciding to abort her child in the event that her own survival depended on the decision), in this case the incident and its context falls so heavily in favor of consideration of the child’s welfare that no real conundrum exists. None.

                It is impossible to even suggest that some general, instinctual impulse toward “self-preservation” could reasonably justify McQueary’s inaction in the moment. In fact, what you have presented is a false dilemma. Even if McQueary did not choose to physically intervene (a decision that many of could support in this context), there is absolutely no justification for not contacting authorities immediately and not doing taking some reasonable efforts to protect the child at the time of the assault.

                To imply that this man was so shaken in the moment that it was impossible for him to make a decision reflecting a truly “greater good” strains credibility to its breaking point. Clearly he showed tremendous presence of mind in contacting his father and making a decision to leave the scene.

                So… an interesting debate, but I’m afraid that we will have to agree to disagree. I have no more time to spend on the topic.

                • Well, for the record, I hate that tactic, and believe it is rude. If you start a discussion that I take the time to engage in good faith, don’t tell me that you have no time to finish….especially when your last statement is as muddled as this.

                  Your comment shows that you don’t comprehend the distinctions between ethical and non-ethical considerations, which I did NOT say were morally equivilent, and this statement “To imply that this man was so shaken in the moment that it was impossible for him to make a decision reflecting a truly “greater good” strains credibility to its breaking point.” is jaw-droppingly naive. Gee…people make bad decisions because they are distressed, panicked and not thinking clearly? NAAAAAAW!!!
                  What’s the sky look like on your planet?

      • How in the world could you possibly sympathize w/ a person who stands & watches an 11 year old boy being raped? Really? You are no better than all those that have covered this up. Why don’t you ask your wife & kids how they would feel if you just stood & watched while they were being raped. You disgust me!

  3. Not once did any person in Penn State’s “chain of command” suggest Mike McQueary report what he witnessed to the police. Apparently McQueary’s father did not make the recommendation either. Very disheartening.
    So many people knew for YEARS and did nothing for whatever inexcusable reasons… too busy to get involved, too invested in the “brand”, too scared, too self-absorbed. Each and every adult, a disturbingly large group of people, with any knowledge of the situation failed miserably at doing the right thing. The right thing being as simple as calling the police.
    There will always be idiots that care more about Paterno being the coach with the most wins rather than the man that ignored a dozen or so children being raped. Paterno being one of those idiots. Obviously Paterno needed to see it happen with his own eyes to truly believe it. The entire attitude of ‘just take his keys away and don’t let him bring the boys in here!’ – AWFUL.
    I hope each and every person involved in passing the buck remembers their personal role in allowing a pedophile to abuse so many children. The many adults that had suspicions but no hard proof about Sandusky these past 30+ years need to reflect on their choices as well. Certainly McQueary has soul searching to do.

  4. As someone who has written and edited all my professional life, I need to take Ms. Kulawik’s side here. Your reply is not only excessively acrimonious, it is also wrong about your own writing. Although you condenscendingly claim that you exempted the failure to stop the rape from the discussion, all you really do is modify your verb “defend” through a small “to this extent” after a lengthy subordinate clause. You hardly make clear that you concede this McQueary fellow should have intervened and summoned police when he saw the rape.

    • You didn’t read the post either, then. I wrote “putting aside the action of physically intervening in the rape itself” which pretty clearly means that I was discussing the reporting and follow-up obligations of McQueary, not the matter of his faling to intervene in the rape itselflf. In a comment in the thread following my initial post about Paterno—I’m sure you didn’t read this either—I raised the question of whi McQueary didn’t stop the rape while he was witnessing it. No one could reasonably read a statement that I was putting a matter aside and then accuse me of justifying it. I don’t, I didn’t, and given the issue, I resent a careless reader suggesting that I was implying that a 10 year old boy consented to rape. Do you really think that is a justified inference from what I wrote? Really?
      Her comment didn’t address what I actually wrote, and challenged assertions I didn’t make. I don’t care for that technique, and it is appropriate for me to say so. The post was clear. I write about the aspects of an issue that I choose to, and it was very clear that thehat the entire post covered the question of whether McQueary was obligated to do more once he had reported to Paterno.

      • Please stop saying “putting aside the action of physically intervening in the rape itself”. THAT is the ENTIRE point! He saw witnessed the rape of a 10 year old boy and did NOT intervene. You might as well have written “let’s say that Mike was a unicorn.”. It DID happen and it can’t be “put aside” so you can try and make some kind of point based on HALF the actual information It makes NO sense to write an article on half the story. Why did you even bother writing this?I am sure the victim of this rape would live to “put aside” his rape.

        • There are many aspects to the story, and as your comment proves, it is confusing to focus on all of them at the same time. Look: the decision of McQueary to report and then not to follow-up his report were separate and distinct from his original error. Don’t tell me I can’t analyze his conduct from the point after he left the scene—not only can I do it, it’s important to do it. I didn’t say it didn’t happen. He witnessed the rape of a 10 year old boy and did not intervene…but he was also the whistleblower who brought the problem to university authorities.You want to make it a simpleminded scenario where McQueary is the villain so you can let Paterno off the hook? Fine. It’s stupid, dishonest and wrong, but fine. Just don’t tell me I have to do it too.

  5. People are conditioned to act by all the little decisions they make. They are monsters before they are apparently so even to themselves. We are what we do. The doing changes us. A volunteer firefighter is much more likely to do the right thing when suddenly confronted alone with a risky choice to help somebody, even in a case that has nothing to do with fighting fires. This is because through his previous actions he has conditioned himself to think of the common good first. If you are an ambitious self-seeker, trying to climb the corporate ladder, never considering if the company you work for is doing good or evil, just looking out for your own career, you are less likely to do the right thing when the lonely moral dilemma presents itself. People who constantly practice community solidarity take care of each other in a crisis. Look at how people helped each other during the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, a society with strong cohesion. Then consider Hurricane Katrina in the US and how although some people were heroes many others only looked after themselves and their property. Mothers are more likely to help the helpless because by doing all the little selfless things mothers have to do they have conditioned themselves to feel empathy and take action. Every action to help reinforces the feeling of empathy and the urgency to do something to help. We all have two sides to our natures. One side seeks pleasure, private things, personal recognition, self expression. The other side seeks to be included, to love others, to help others, especially children. Our consumerist society puts more emphasis on the selfish side because that’s how you sell things. The self centered side of human nature isn’t evil but it is evil to be out of balance and focus too much on your self. If we would prepare ourselves to act heroically when thrown into a situation that demands heroism, we should be practicing community solidarity in all the little daily choices we make. Common courtesy is a start.

  6. I know for certain that I would call the police. I think what I would do is intervene. I would pepper spray Jerry and keep the child with me while calling the police. I’m always thinking,”What if this were my child.” And in certain situations I don’t stop to consider the consequences,especially if a child is in danger but that’s me.

  7. So much rationalizing. The matter you had with the gal at work was not in the least similar to what McQuery faced. You think it’s similar because later you felt like a smuck for not being more chivalrous. Mike was a TOTAL COWARD. If a woman or decent brave man (parent or not, employed by the system or not) had witnessed that rape, I dare say….blood may have flowed in that shower before it was over. That Mike, poor coward, had to call his Daddy for advise goes to show he was still a baby and not a man. It took NO COURAGE to go to Joepa. His Daddy told him to do it. He did it and he moved on to be the worm he was destined to be. I hope I don’t sound TOO bitter, but wormy, cowardly men make me want to puke. The victimized boys were more courageous than Mike McQuery!

    • Well. let’s see:
      1. She was a woman, not a gal”
      2. Chivalry has nothing to do with it.
      3. I’m not going to explain the similarities if you can’t see them. A key core issue—reporting misconduct that might be of aserial nature to superiors who do nothing—is the same. Be dense if you want to.
      4. I’m interested in why people make the wrong decisions. He may have used rationalizations, but I’m not—if I were rationalizing, I wouldn’t have written that he was wrong.
      5. I consulted with my late Dad, a wise and ethical man, many times in times of crisis, and it did not make me a child. I’m sorry you don’t have that resource. Those of us who have know how important and valuable it can be.
      6. Yes, you sound bitter and unreasonabe. I’m sorry.

      • I you had walked in on your bosses secretary being raped, clearly non consensual sex, and you turned around left them called your dad and asked for advise THEN the situation would be similar. The situations you describe are nothing alike.

        • Yes, we have officially established that 42% of readers can’t comprehend the use of analogy. An autographed 8X12 to the first commenter who explains to Frustrated et al. the basis on which my experience with the secretary has an application to McQueary’s failure to follow up on his original report. I’m tired of explaining it to the willfully dense. (please include reference to how a true analogy often has only some aspects in common with the situation it is being compared to, which might be very different in other respects. This seems to be the sticking point for the analogy-challenged.)

  8. It sounds to me like your experience at this foundation was the beginning of what you would later call “Hamm’s Excuse.”


  9. Unreasonable, I didn’t think so. As a Retired Army Officer I have witnessed incredible bravery and selflessness by very young men and women (re: Jacks fine summary above on “conditioning”). I expected a modicum of the same in the full ranks of the well educated “leaders” at one of our finest universities? Sports, first of all, are purported to teach leadership, core values, and selflessness. I assumed that from long training came physical strength and bravery as well. And a reaction reflex to protect your fellow team mate. Wait, that’s what McQ did! And he’s still not felt badly enough to resign. Narcissm reigns in Penn State football.

    McQ WITNESSED AN EGREGIOUS CRIME AGAINST A MINOR which he did nothing to stop in the moment or even after his chain of command choked.
    An ADULT WOMAN asked for your intersession which you obliged.
    I still don’t see the situations as comparable unless you think the woman was as vulnerable and helpless as the boy.

    The woman in your story needed your support to be brave on her own behalf. Some women, depending on their “conditioning”, tend to turn to others to fight their battles for them. However, if we have a strong ally we can fight for ourselves. And gain incredible personal strength in the process. Perhaps the comparison lies in the fact that the boy had no allies and you were not as good an ally as you might have been (only you really know)..

    I still have my daddy, thank you. He doesn’t need to tell me right from wrong. But he does support me in general decision making and is a genuine ally. He’s a stalwart and brave old man. Dare say, he would have killed Sandusky on the spot. Jail be damned!

    • Kerry,
      I have witnessed the same bravery and selflessness in a few people as well. I have also seen young men and at times older, freeze, go into shock, become irrational, and lose control of all bodily functions because their ethics have been totally turned upside down. They have never been “conditioned” as you say for every episode that they come across. Some have even been highly trained and still go into shock when the shit hits the fan. Jack said that the heroes are out there and they have unbelieveable courage and bravery. Not everyone fits that mold. Some have not matured enough to handle those situations alone. It isn’t easy. You should know that since you were an officer and no doubt seen and heard things that blew your mind at a time when you felt secure. It’s just not easy for everyone. That is why we have heroes in life and in ethics.

      • Michael, I agree with you generally, that not everyone has the makeup to be brave and selfless even with “conditioning” and training. But in certain life pursuits like the military and athetic coaching of the calliber at Penn State I believe the standard of conduct and courage should be extremely high. Accepting your argument that, presented with an unimaginable shock, you flinch, run or throw up,don’t you think you’d either get a spine or leave the pursuit? McQ did neither. He appears to have not lost a wink of sleep. No apparent PTSD here. He let years go by. I don’t know if it was his conscience or a supeona that spurred his tongue. Somehow I suspect the latter. All I can say is that ON THE FACE of it I have no repect for him and he should resign, like a man.

        But back to the events in your life that made you feel an empathy for McQ’s plight…Your perp saw justice, but only after a few more assaults which I assume you did not know about until later. Could you have brought him down sooner if you had persisted? Maybe. I’m very glad that you recognize the personnal horror that harassment inflicts on women. You apparently have lost some sleep over what you did or could have done to help the situation. You have a conscience. You seek to improve. To become a better man. Do better next time. Set a wrong to right.

        However, Please don’t project YOUR struggle onto McQ unless you have evidence that he went through similar angst year after year. That’s one of the reasons the article strikes a sour note. Peace.

  10. Are you insane?!!! It is not always easy to immediately do the right thing? A LITTLE BOY IS BEING RAPED & you understand NOT doing the right thing immediately? I cannot believe that anyone would excuse or understand why Mcqueary didn’t immediately try & stop a rape that was happening right in front of him. How can you possibly find any reason to defend Mike’s non-actions? It makes me sick to think that there are people out there like Mike. There is absolutely NO excuse for Mike & he absolutely should be fired! I am dumbfounded by anyone who even remotely understands why this man didn’t help. WHAT A COWARD!!!

    • You’re hysterical. Calm down. The fact is, most people would not intervene is a scene like that. It’s not a fact that I like, but it’s true. I also doubt that a university could fire somone for not stopping a violent crime that he actually reports.

  11. There is no putting the idea of physical intervention aside, that was the beginning of McQueary’s colossal failure to protect and save this little, 10 year old from this buggering. His second failing was his overriding concern for himself and his career. Then he doesn’t even go to the police?! His father fails to advise him to call the police?! They both allow Sandusky to leave the campus with his victim and they do nothing?!
    Have you seen McQueady? He is over six feet tall and weighs like two hundred pounds and at 28, it wasn’t fat. So,why not yell at Sandusky to stop the rape? Why not punch his lights out, grab the child and run?

    Defend his inaction all you want. You are wrong, wrong, wrong. We have a duty as moral citizens of the world to protect the weak and the innocent, otherwise we revert back to the laws of the wild: survival of the fittest.

    Aren’t you struck by how many children could have been saved from Sandusky’s depravity had McQueardys, Paterno, Sanier, Curley or even the janitors had just called the police? Aren’t you sickened by the realization that their are probably hundreds of victims yet to come forward?

    • Except that life isn’t like that. He did the wrong thing at step one (not intervening), which set up the next choice. He chose right, reporting the attack to an individual he had every reason to believe would deal with it, and, by the way, exposing himself to just this kind of criticism. Then he was set up for choice #3—deciding whether to pursue the matter until it was resolved. He didn’t, but that is to some extent moral luck—he shouldn’t have had to.

      #1 is easy. Go ahead and rail about it: there’s nothing to discuss, because there’s no controversy. I wrote about #3, because that is the most complex.

      I did not defend McQueary excpet to say that he did not do everything wrong, and he didn’t.

      • When you witness a crime of this magnitude, if you are not going to help the victim yourself, you call the police. By skipping that step and then remaining quiet about what he witnessed for ten years means he did everything wrong in my estimation. Clearly, it speaks to his father’s parenting, that he himself did not counsel his son to do the right thing by involving law enforcement.

        Maybe in his 28 year old naïveté he thought going to the coach, the AD or school administrators would mean the problem would be properly addressed. But, when it wasn’t and he still saw Sandusky around, what then? Did he not have a moral duty to act then; afterall, he was a percipient witness to a rape by sodomy of a 10 year old boy? It wasn’t some terrible story he heard about Sandusky, he saw it happening and worse still, they saw him. Rawr! I just know that little boy thought he would be saved, by this big red headed hero. Alas, he was not.

        His inaction from beginning to end overrides the worth of even the scintilla of action you credit him with.

        I hope he now, does the decent thing and resigns. And, certainly the board should fire him.

      • He did everything wrong, at every turn.
        He did not rescue the child.
        He did not call the police immediately.
        He did not call the police later.
        He did not bat an eyelash as he continued to see the rapist in a semi-professional capacity.
        He did EVERYTHING wrong. He did nothing right. Nothing, not his age (which incidentally was 28, not 18), his fear of losing his job, his fear for his personal safety, NOTHING should have prevented him from intervening and notifying the authorities. That he continued, long after the event, to stand idly by as this rapist had privileges on campus and in the showers and paraded children through this organization, only further demonstrates that the cowardice he exhibited in those initial moments was truly that, cowardice, and not merely some momentary shock or a lapse in reason.

        • He obviously didn’t do everything wrong, now did he? He reported the incident, graphically, to the man on campus who was supposed to be virtue personified. He alerted campus authorities to the criminal that they had been ducking for 5 years.. That WAS right. How did you manage to leave that off your list?

    • do you have sympathy for the 10 year old boy…were you ever in his position? doggie-style behind a football coach in the showers…I guess mcqueary thought it was consensual…

  12. A 28 year old man. A former football player. Someone who stands at six feet four inches tall. This is the coward that ran to his office and called Daddy. He did not run into the showers. He did not grab the child, and violently shove the rapist into the wall. He did not say to that little boy, “It’s ok, you’re going to be ok. Everything is going to be fine.” He did not call 911 as soon as he had the child safely away. He did not call 911 later that evening. He did not even call 911 a week later. He fled to his office, and he called his daddy. The “next choice” once he realized he was too cowardly to step in was not to report the rape to coach (which frankly, is as idiotic as reporting the rape to daddy). The next step was to call the police. Who is the most culpable person in this situation? Sandusky. Who is next in line? McQueary. I am sorry that I can’t shed any tears over any torment you mistakenly believe he suffered all these years, all the lost sleep, all the uncertainty. I’m sorry you’re so utterly morally depraved that you believe the potential loss of your job or ostracization from college football is an explanation for why this coward did not immediately intervene. I’m sorry there are people like you out there, but it certainly accounts for why more people do not step forward when they are aware of the abuse of children.

    • I really wonder who you think you are, and how you think you have the standing to make character judgments on me based on my analysis. Especially since you put words into my mouth that I neither wrote nor believe. Where did I speculate on McQueary’s “torment”? Anywhere? I didn’t. I explored reasons why McQueary didn’t do the right thing—I’m depraved for offering reasons? What is the matter with you? Do you really think he didn’t have reasons?

      I ended the post like this, in case you didn’t actually read it (the other option is that you couldn’t understand it):

      “It was a lesson that I vowed to remember: when fate puts you in the situation where you are the one person who can right a wrong, the fact that it wasn’t your fault is irrelevant, and is no excuse for not fixing the problem. The likely disruption to my job and danger to my career? Too bad. I had to make sure that the serial harasser stopped hurting people. Instead, I allowed myself to rationalize that I had done all I was obligated to do….Just like Mike McQueary.”

      How does that excuse McQueary, or justify your personal attack on me? It doesn’t. You owe me an apology, and I’ll see it before you get another entry in this discussion.

      • You are not owed anything. “Never underestimate the difficulty of making the right ethical decision in an unexpected crisis.”? That’s a load of tripe. It is quite easy to make the “right ethical decision” when you are a person of strong moral convictions, not a pandering weasel afraid of ticking off the boss and losing his job. Your entire treatise is like a study in why some people are sniveling cowards, and abuse is rampant in our society. Many of us have faced an unexpected crisis. Some of us have faced several. It takes a uniquely cowardly person to act as Mike McQueary did, and to act as you did as a 35 year old man.

        I see you rejected my other post. Cowardice must be contagious. What Mike McQueary did was wrong, at every turn. Every single choice he made was a selfish, cowardly, and wrong choice. From walking out of that locker room and on, at no point did he make the correct choice (and let’s be real, telling the coach was as pointless as telling Daddy, that is not the correct choice). There is no explanation, no justification, no defense for his cowardice. That you engaged in similarly cowardly behavior in your own professional life has zero significance, save that it shows just how many craven people live among us.

        • 1. I did not reject your other post…I don’t know why it was spammed, but I retrieved it. I also wrote a response, which also disappeared (go ahead, call me a liar–this appears to be what you are good at), which I will repeat: Your statement that McQueary did “nothing” right is obviously untrue, and intellectually dishonest. Reporting the incident graphically to his superior, Paterno, a supposed moral exemplar who would do the right thing for sure, was completely appropriate. He put his fate in the wrong person,
          2. “Never underestimate the difficulty of making the right ethical decision in an unexpected crisis” is am important lesson, and you will, eventually, learn it to your sorrow.
          3. You really do appear to be a uniquely arrogant, naive, mean-sprited, and self-righteous woman. That’s a diagnosis, by the way. You will drive people to elect McQueary governor, just so they can be aligned against you…
          4….and we can’t have that. I encourage dissent and criticism, but all you offer is abuse. You can e-mail me an apology with a promise to be civil, or be banned from the forum. Your choice. It’s more than you deserve.

  13. What if he witnessed a man beating or torturing a child? Would that have moved him to intervene? Is not rape of a 10 year old MORE heinous? This is a sick excuse.

    • What is an ‘excuse”? Show me an excuse in the post. The post is about how we reach decisions that stop us from doing the right thing or best thing, and besides that, his choice not to intervene in the rape itself isn’t discussed at all.

  14. What if McQueary did …nothing? Everything would be business as usual at Penn State and a child rapist would still be on the loose unless he was caught in another situation. Could he have and should he have done more? absolutely. I’ve heard millions of sactimonious crap opinions over the last few days . But I’d be willing to bet less than 50% would have done the same or less than McQueary if put in the exact same situation he was.

  15. “The fact is, most people would not intervene in a scene like that.” With what certainty do you determine that is a fact? Have you seen studies? Analyzed data? Or is it a “fact” based on your own life experience, and therefore not a “fact” at all? (check the dictionary if you still aren’t clear) One can only surmise that your use of the word “fact” comes from your own life experience. If that is true then I feel badly that the people you know, or at least have shared experiences with, are such cowards as to render that a “fact” in your opinion.
    What if McQueary had instead witnessed the boy being stabbed repeatedly? If the “slapping noise” McQueary states that he heard was not sexual activity but was actually the blade of a hunting knife slapping against a 10-tear old’s skin as he was being stabbed, what then? And when he then looked over, made eye contact with both the boy and the man stabbing him, yet still only ran to his daddy, what then?
    Stop hiding behind non-sensical, pseudo-philosophical arguments. You accuse others of reacting emotionally, when it seems the emotion of guilt is behind your whole post. Hence your title, “Mike McQueary and Me”. You feel guilty, and as if you were a coward, and therefore are trying to relieve your own guilt by excusing the cowardly act of another.

    • You know, I tolerate obnoxious, gratuitously disrespectful comments like yours, but only up to a point. I raise these issues to provoke thought and discussion, not to allow facile, doctrinaire, narrow-minded boors insult me while making fatuous arguments as if they are declarations from on high.

      . YES, there is plenty of data on people not intervening: it’s called the bystander syndrome, and in this kind of case, there are other powerful factors as well. Though “the fact is” is a well known idiom, and anyone who reads more than a book a year knows that it is not to be taken literally. Like most comments here, that was an opinion, but an informed one.

      Your second paragraph is ridiculous. What does that scenario prove? FEWER people would intervene in a stabbing, because they would get stabbed. What if? What’s your point?

      Your third paragraph is what you accuse me of, and wrongly. I am one of the least cowardly people you will ever meet in your life, but I didn’t handle that situation the way I wish I had, and yes, it gives me some insight into how McQueary handled his expe3rience. It has nothing to do with guilt at all. Regret, sure. But I needed a job, and for some third party pedant to act as if that isn’t a powerful consideration only shows naivete.

      I was willing to expose a mistake in my own life publicly for discussion purposes, and one has to be a genuine jackass of epic proportions to use that sharing of a a life experience to denigrate me.

      Finally, there is not a word in my post excusing McQueary of anything. The post was about why someone doesn’t do the right thing…it’s called analysis.

      If you want to comment here again, drop the attitude; you’re a guest. If the next post includes uncalled for nastiness like “check the dictionary if you still aren’t clear”—boy, if you really want to challenge me on that level, you’re biting off more than you can chew, I can promise you—-it’s not seeing the light of day. Disagreeing with me does not give you license to be abusive, or, as in this post, simple-minded. It doesn’t advance the topic. I respect contrary opinions, but only if they are delivered fairly.

  16. Jesus Christ, I’m a college student of with only a sightly-above average IQ who doesn’t care one bit about football when it doesn’t pertain to marching band; how is the hell is my reading comprehension regarding this post better than a bunch of people who are presumably older and wiser than me? Goddamn, people should understand by now that explaining evil is not the same as condoning it!

    • I think the problem most people have with this post is that it does not call McQueary’s actions evil, simply human. And, as other human beings, we do not agree.

    • I think the answer, Julian, is that people want to read what they want to believe, and thus intentionally read anything that challenges that in ways that justify antipathy. They want condemnation, and in this case, they want a villain other than the beloved coach who betrayed his own stated values.

      • Also, I suspect much of it is simply arrogance; a lot of people enjoy feeling superior to someone whom has obviously failed (hell, I’m guilty of this myself), and your implication that they could end doing the same thing if push came to shove probably ticked a bunch of people off. Also, this is possibly emblematic of how people tend to latch on to black and white labels when things are going south (see: Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street).

        It’s made me a bit curious though; we know that the incompetent tend to rate themselves better when compared with the competent: has anyone found a study determining whether the same thing applies to ethics?

  17. The only thing I can do is to echo the sentiments of the good, sane people replying to the above article. Thank God, some people get it. Sandusky had his penis inside a little boy’s rectum! Mike McQueary walked away like a coward! He ultimately took a job within the organization and worked side by side with a rapist! He looked out for himself. The fact that anyone can do that makes them a POS! He should be fired, not for his safety, but because he walked away and didn’t get that monster off of the boy.

  18. Some of the comments written above in McQueary’s defense truly baffle me. I read an article yesterday (here’s the link: http://sports.yahoo.com/top/news?slug=ycn-10399373), and this quote taken from that article pretty much sums it up, “We all know Mike McQueary didn’t walk in that locker room expecting to be faced with a situation where heroism was needed. That boy didn’t need an out and out hero that night. Neither did the victims after him. What they needed was a leader. Hell, what they needed was a human being. Instead, they got Mike McQueary.”

    • Yeah, that’s an incoherent comment if I ever read one. What do you think it says? He wasn’t required to be a hero—any “human being” would attack a large man and physically prevent him from assaulting a boy in the showers. Wait…that takes a leader. What is he saying?

      Again, I am not “defending” McQueary’s failure to act on the scene. But what he had to do was neither easy nor pleasant nor without risk, and the armchair heroes who ignore that embarrass themselves. Human beings, even good human beings, don’t always find the wisdom or strength to do the right thing. The Yahoo article chooses to ignore that.

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