Explaining Penn State's Leadership Disaster

At Pennsylvania State University, morality has taken a back seat to football glory. How could academic leadership have failed so spectacularly in the face of overtly reprehensible behavior?

What's the Latest Development?


Despite numerous reports that former Penn State football coordinator Jerry Sandusky took advantage of vulnerable boys in the team's showers, nobody acted. Now Joe Paterno, the longtime football coach, has been fired, and the university's president, Graham Spanier, has been removed by the board of trustees. Riots spread across the Penn State campus not in response to the apparent injustice but because Paterno was fired. We are witnessing the results of a badly skewed set of priorities among students, abetted by the college.

What's the Big Idea?

How could academic leadership have failed so spectacularly in the face of well-reported criminal behavior? It has been a long time coming, says Jena McGregor. She argues that leadership requires making the right decision when faced with ethical dilemmas but that it also requires "the ability to constantly gut check an organization's culture and proactively redirect an institution when it gets on the wrong path." The deification of the college's football program blinded leaders to more urgent concerns.

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