The University of Montana, Campus Rape, and the Penn State Disease

The Justice Department is investigating this issue, so I am hardly going to get to the bottom of it in a blog post. But there is obviously a rape and sexual assault problem at the University of Montana, and to conclude that the administration is a large part of the problem doesn’t take much of investigation. This certainly appears to be a school suffering from the Penn State disease, in which the values of the institution place public relations, spin and, once again, football above the welfare of past, present and future victims.

Let us just begin with this salient fact:  and President Royce Engstrom still has his job. In February, a student who was a Saudi national was accused in two campus incidents, one involving a rape, and another involving sexual assault. Records show that the first action taken by the administration, in the person of now-retired UM Dean of Students Charles Couture, was to alert the accused, advise him, and suggest that he get out of Dodge before he could be arrested—which he did, fleeing to Saudi Arabia. The police didn’t learn about the complaints for a week, and by then the alleged student rapist was long gone. Then Engstrom had the jaw-dropping gall to tell the press that this was a good thing, and that his staff had acted in a “timely” and “appropriate” fashion. “We can let people know we have dealt with these (alleged assaults) and that particular perpetrator is gone,” Engstrom said.

In a word, unbelievable. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: Joe Paterno

“This is not a football scandal and should not be treated as one.”

The late Joe Paterno, legendary Penn State football coach, in a previously unreleased and unpublished column he wrote in the wake of the  Joe Sandusky child abuse scandal, in which he played a major role. The internal Penn State investigation into the university’s handling of the episode was released today.


In denial to the end, Paterno never understood how he, and football, contributed to the culture that allowed Sandusky to prey on young boys with the passive assistance of Joe and the school he loved.

Of course the scandal was about football. It was about how reliance on football to the exclusion of all other priorities and values warped an academic culture. It was about the danger of elevating a football coach to such status and power that his tunnel-vision could infect an entire college campus. It was about how the grotesquely exaggerated importance, popularity, visibility, and financial profitability of a football program can elevate those responsible for its success to a degree where they become unaccountable, and able to exploit their power for private and possibly criminal motives. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: Anti-Bullying Mis-steps: The Perils of Changing Cultural Norms (Part 2)

From Penn, excellent and valuable insight on “The Hunger Games” controversy, going into relevant issues and facts that my post did not. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Anti-Bullying Mis-steps: The Perils of Changing Cultural Norms (Part 2):

“The purpose of this argument scares the hell out of me. As one press-screener’s review had it, and as the trailers make clear, “The Hunger Games” tells the story of a televised fight to the death between(sic) a group of youngsters in which only one can survive.” If I believed there were any merit to the MPAA system, yes, R is what it should be. [“This Film is Not Yet Rated” is the movie to see on this subject.] Continue reading

Anti-Bullying Mis-steps: The Perils of Changing Cultural Norms (Part 2)

If "Hunger Games" should be able to bypass the ratings because kids can learn from it, then why shouldn't a film like "A Clockwork Orange," a better film, should also get a pass?

When society decides makes altering attitudes about any conduct a priority,an immediate danger is that it will destroy other societal safe-guards and damage other valid cultural norms in its tunnel-vision.

“Hunger Games,” a film about the consequences of bullying based on a best-selling novel, is about to hit theaters with an R rating, meaning that teens, the prime target of the nation’s anti-bullying effort, can’t see the film without their parents’ permission. Katy Butler, a young bullying victim, has led a national effort to get the film’s ratings reversed. Predictably, politicians have jumped on the bandwagon.

“Over 13 million American youths will be bullied over the course of this year alone, making it the most common form of violence experienced by young people in our nation,” begins a letter from Rep. Mike Honda (D.- Calif.) to his colleagues, in support of Butler’s campaign. “We cannot hope to control this epidemic … without discussing tough issues publicly and bringing them to the forefront of the consciousness of the American public.”

“YES! RIGHT ON! OF COURSE!” Except that what Butler and Honda are proposing essentially undermines the entire purpose of movie ratings, and if their efforts succeed, there is no way anyone will be able to argue that the system has a shred of integrity at all. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Schadenfreude, Ethics, and Those Fanatics Inside Us All”

Maybe "The Broadcaster" was all Harry had inside...

Rick elaborates nicely on the theme of my post on handling those fanatic personas that reside in each of us, and in the process takes the ethical measure of an iconic baseball broadcaster whose charms always escaped me…the late Harry Carey.

“It strikes me that there’s another part of the equation, which you only hint at here, but which you have mentioned in other posts. That’s the “ethics alarm” (to coin a phrase) that goes off, or should, when the director or the Red Sox fan or whoever That Guy is says or does something unethical. Part of it is “heat of the moment” stuff: the egoism that slips out in a moment of excitement. No, of course you didn’t want Thurman Munson to die, but yes, he did play for the hated Yankees, and their team just got worse. You’re forgiven the fist-pump. Once. And provided you (Jack, as opposed to Red Sox fan) didn’t mean it.

“I was watching a Cubs game on WGN sometime in the mid-1980s when news came over the wire that Montreal Expos infielder Hubie Brooks had suffered a season-ending injury. Brooks had been a favorite of mine when he’d played for the Mets (“my team”), and I continued to follow his career with some interest, so the news was doubly sad for me: a player had been seriously injured, and that player was Hubie Brooks.

“In contrast, Cubs announcer Harry Carey proclaimed “well, if it helps the Cubs win, it’s OK by me.” I remember the exact words 25 years later. What struck me was not that they were uttered, but that no one—not Carey himself, not his broadcast partner, no one—made the slightest attempt to walk them back. That was the official verdict: a season-ending injury (Brooks was never the same again, by the way) was a good thing if it happened to somebody in a different uniform. I mentioned the incident to a couple of friends—Cubs fans—and they laughed and said “oh, that’s Harry.”

“Everyone understood that Carey was a Cubs fan first and an announcer second. That was, I am told, part of his charm—I never saw it, but others did. Still, I was sort of hoping that there would be a human being in there somewhere. On that particular day, at least, I was disappointed. We lived in WGN country for another seven years. I never watched another Cubs game without turning off the sound.”

Schadenfreude, Ethics, and Those Fanatics Inside Us All

NBC baseball blogger Craig Calcaterra recently raised the sensitive issue of sports fan Schadenfreude*, something that I have been afflicted with from time to time. The occasion was the recent injury to San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey in a particularly gruesome collision at home plate. His comments made me think about the obsessed and narrow personas in all of us, and how we should regard their occasional callousness.

Posey was the 2010 National League Rookie of the Year; he is also a cornerstone of the Giants’ recent success: the team is the reigning Major League Baseball World Champion. The collision with Florida Marlins’ Scott Cousins simultaneously broke Posey’s leg, ended his season, jeopardized the career of an exciting young player (players often return from such injuries permanently diminished) and dealt a serious blow to the Giants’ chances of returning to the World Series in 2011.  Reacting to a blogger who suggested that the injury caused most non-Giants fans to  give “a little fist-pump”… because “their team’s chances of dethroning the Giants as World Series champions just got a little bit better,” Calcaterra wrote… Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: CNBC Financial Analyst Larry Kudlow

We've all been there, Larry. Still sounded awful, though.

The human toll here looks to be much worse than the economic toll, and we can be grateful for that.”

CNBC’s financial guru Larry Kudlow, discussing the economic implications of the Japanese earthquake and its aftermatha legitimate topic—while giving an instructive demonstration of how tunnel-vision and focus on one objective above all else can disable an ethics alarm, momentarily, or even permanently.

The quote speaks for itself, but here are a few comments: Continue reading