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Speaking Out

December 6, 2011, Volume 58, No. 14

Reporting Crimes to Police

In their statement published in Almanac (November 22, 2011) in response to the recent incidents at Penn State, President Gutmann, Provost Price, and Executive Vice President Carnaroli were wise to remind us about the ethical values of our University as articulated in the Principles of Responsible Conduct, and to point us to the procedures and mechanisms in place to insure that all members of the University community abide by these values. But their statement was an inadequate response to what happened at Penn State.

When graduate assistant Mike McQueary witnessed illegal activity taking place in the locker room showers at Penn State, he was right to inform Coach Joe Paterno; and Joe Paterno was right to inform Athletic Director Tim Curley, who in turn informed Vice President Gary Schultz. But McQueary and Paterno were wrong not to inform the police as well; and Curley and Schultz are currently under indictment for violating state law in not informing the local district attorney’s office about what was reported to them. It was Curley and Schultz’s failure to report what McQueary and Paterno told them, not Jerry Sandusky’s violation of the ethical values of that university, that led to the resignation of Penn State President Graham Spanier.

What our University needs from President Gutmann, Provost Price, and Executive Vice President Carnaroli is not a restatement of the Principles of Responsible Conduct, but two clear statements. The first is an instruction to all members of the University community that if they witness a violation of the law, it should be reported, not just to a University official, but to the police. The second is a very clear promise that any violations of the law that come to the attention of any University official will be acted on according to the laws of the city, the Commonwealth, and the nation, and not just to the University’s own Principles of Responsible Conduct. Their own jobs—like former Penn State President Spanier’s—depend on it.

—Cary M. Mazer, Associate Professor of Theatre Arts and English

Response: Adhering to the Law

We very much agree with Associate Professor Mazer’s observation, and would expect anyone at Penn who witnesses a serious crime to report it to the police immediately. The point of our memo was to make sure that everyone at Penn is aware of the expectations that we have for adhering to the law. That certainly includes notifying the police when crimes have been committed. We expect the very highest in ethical conduct from the faculty and staff of our University. We are confident that those on campus understand this, but believe it is important to periodically remind the community of our priorities, principles and expectations.

—Craig Carnaroli, Executive Vice President


Speaking Out welcomes reader contributions. Short, timely letters on University issues will be accepted by Thursday at noon for the following  Tuesday’s issue, subject to right-of-reply guidelines. Advance notice of intention to submit is appreciated. —Eds.

Almanac - December 6, 2011, Volume 58, No. 14