Penn State and FAMU pay for broken promises

The NCAA is considering suspending the lucrative Penn State football program over the Sandusky scandal and FAMU's president was forced to resign after hazing killed one student.  It's time for colleges to refocus on taking care of our children.

WASHINGTON, DC, July 19, 2012 - Today, word is that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is considering suspending the Penn State football program, perhaps indefinitely, over a report that shows school officiallys negligently permitted then known sexual predator Jerry Sandusky to continue to work at the school and then provided him lucrative retirement benefits. It could be the equivalentof the “death penalty” to the program.

Defense attorney Deborah Hines summarizes the final report of a special investigative committee lead by former FBI director Louis Freeh, released last Thursday:

“The four most powerful men at Penn State, former President Graham Spanier, Senior Vice President Gary Schultz, Athletic director Timothy Curley and head football coach Joe Paterno engaged in a pattern of concealing Sandusky’s child sex activities from authorities and failing to protect against a child predator for over a decade. They empowered Sandusky to attract victims by having unrestricted access to the athletic facilities. The Board was inept by failing to oversee activities of the University. Once the board of trustees became aware of Sandusky’s activities, the board failed to inquire and receive information from Graham. The report found that there was a striking lack of empathy for the child victims by the most powerful men at Penn State.”

The Penn State scandal broke around the same time that a drum major at Florida A&M died at the hands of fellow students in the band as part of a vicious hazing ritual. Several weeks after the incident, police charged four students in the hazing beating death of Robert Champion. The 26-year old’s family said last week “the rampant culture of hazing found at FAMU would not and could not be eradicated without some major housecleaning of those who turned a blind eye to the problem.”

In June, the trustees voted 8-4 in a no-confidence motion against FAMU president James Ammons’ performance.

This week, Ammons’ resignation took effect, even though earlier he had opted to stay on staff until October. 

Like the FAMU case, the Penn State cover-up is evidence of a fundamental breach of the commitment by institutions of higher learning to put kids first, “What we learned is that “Happy Valley” Penn State was  a secret society where, Sandusky, a known child sex predator was allowed to roam free for over a decade,” Hines writes.  “The first known case occurred in 1998. It was investigated but nothing came of it. If the child sex brutality had been brought to light when discovered by college officials in 1998, the remaining children now adults would not have suffered at the hands of Sandusky.”

The recent  NCAA threats to further penalize the university by revoking some of its NCAA privileges perhaps will send a strong message and signal to other universities and schools that they ought to be operating their schools with the highest standards for the students and young people in their care.

Ideally, the outcomes in both cases, each which were the subject of several Politics of Raising Children columns, will establish a precedent and standard for schools and universities that their priority and obligations ought to be  to educating and protecting children and not coveriong up bad actors.

Parents send their older teenage children off to college and in hopes these custodians will put the well-being of the students and kids in their custodial care first.

Let’s hope those schools start to live up to their end of the bargain. 


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Jeneba Ghatt
Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt is a former journalist turned lawyer turned citizen journalist. Currently, she manages her boutique communications law firm, where she has represented small businesses and nationally-recognized civil and consumer rights organizations before the United States Supreme Court, federal courts and the FCC. She also covers the White House and US Congress for the online news site while authoring her own influential blog which is frequently accessed by top policy makers and think tanks, and the investment community. focuses on the intersection of politics and technology and reports on policies and rules in the communications and tech sector.
Before opening her law firm, The Ghatt Law Group, which was the first communications firm owned by women and minorities, Jeneba regulated Comcast and Starpower as the Assistant General Counsel for the District of Columbia's Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications, and at one point was the only communications regulatory attorney in the entire city. She is founding member and policy chair for a new trade association, the National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs and provides advice and counsel to new businesses in the tech industry, particularly small businesses owned by women and minorities.

Born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, but raised in the United States by her Catholic mom and Muslim dad, she started her college career creating web content for one of the earliest websites in history while working part time for the University of Maryland's Office of Technology. Following her graduation from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, she founded and co-wrote one of the earliest blogs and since then has gone on to found and author six different widely read and influential blogs. She was one of only 22 writers and bloggers to attend the first White House summit for African American media.
She holds a Certificate in Communications Law Studies from Catholic; a Juris Doctor from there as well, and a Master of Law in advocacy degree from the Georgetown University Law Center where she first taught and lectured as a Staff Attorney and Graduate fellow at that law school's Institute for Public Representation. She later went on to teach Media Law at the University of Maryland at College Park and guest lecture at Yale Law School and Penn State University, College of Telecommunications. She is well skilled and versed with social media and manages several Twitter, Facebook, Linked In accounts and groups.
She sits on the board of several non profits and trade associations.

Contact Jeneba Ghatt


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