Should Joe have done more?
Joe Paterno, 85 year old Penn State U. legendary coach, was dismissed from his post because of his failure to report an alleged crime (a sexual encounter between a retired assistant coach and a 10 year old boy) to the authorities. He did report the incident to his organizational superiors but that was not deemed sufficient. Joe said that he should have done more but ain’t hindsight so wonderful. I never read the Grand Jury report or any other doc that might give me better insight into why Joe did what he did. I presume the evidence before the Grand Jury was pretty graphic and convincing, otherwise it is hard to imagine that the PSU board would have taken such drastic action.
On the ethics issue, it seems to me that the young man who witnessed the incident should have done something then and there but the world is full of situations in which people turn their head away from, I imagine in this case, such a shocking event. Consider the story about an incident that occurred in China while I was there this past October. (see my post on this site)
Back to Joe–Joe, of course, did do the “right” thing by taking the matter up the hierarchy but it obviously wasn’t enough in the eyes of the media and I suspect the public. In the final analysis, what passes for the right thing to do is the responsibility of the individual–a well established wisdom among ethicists. Moral responsibility resides first and foremost with the individual, otherwise we exist in a world without ethics or morality, one that borders on if not indeed is ethical relativism or perhaps worse, “whatever you do is your business so long as it doesn’t harm me!”
I believe that part of the underlying “cause” of Joe’s failure to do more is a function of his longevity and perhaps age, even ten years ago. I have seen countless incidents of leaders falling off the ethical ladder b/c they became too comfortable with the people around them and their work environment. In other words, they just let their guard down and develop an ethical blindspot. No one is immune from ethical blindspots but I do believe that longevity in a position/office creates what the economists call a moral hazard.
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