Sunday, July 22, 2012

Thar ain't a tree high enough...

Initial reports are that the NCAA is going to hammer PSU tomorrow regarding the institutional failure to report and stop Jerry Sandusky's molestation of children.  Now, this blog will certainly have more to say when we see the exact nature of the punishment, I just want to remark now on the reports that this decision was reached outside of the standard NCAA process.

I don't actually have a problem with the NCAA not conducting its standard investigation.  The Freeh report is comprehensive, and it was commissioned by PSU itself.  If PSU's own report contains enough info to act upon, I don't think the NCAA needs to stand on principle in repeating the leg work.

What does bother me is that the decision was reached without a formal hearing.

When the details of the Freeh report came out, I was appalled, as I'm sure most of you were.  I had a gut reaction that "something" needed to be done to PSU and its officials.  Heads needed to roll, people needed to pay, grab the torch and pitchfork, rabble rabble rabble.

But that's exactly the point of due process.  Formal investigations and hearing processes are designed to remove inflamed passions from the process; otherwise you aren't dispensing justice, you are enacting vengeance.  It may satisfy our schadenfreude to "hammer" people quickly after some perceived wrong, but it gives in to our baser impulses and thereby weakens the legitimacy our system.  A mob with a gavel is still a mob.  We tend to get consequences disproportionate to the crime.  Even if you are an advocate of an eye for an eye, the animal brain tends to start screaming "An eye?  I want the whole !$%@! face!!!"

David Jones is reporting that PSU won't be appealling the punishment and thereby this whole thing is probably the result of some deal they struck with the NCAA.  If that's true it mollifies my concern to an extent, although PSU is still negotiating from a position of weakness here in the midst of a hue and cry.

Granted, all of this is a bit of navel gazing until the details are released in the morning.  We'll have more to say on the role of the NCAA in stepping in here at all.  But the degree to which this situation highlights a wild west lynch mob mentality is worth remarking on, because it's hard to imagine a more perfect example of a situation where we feel no sympathy for the accused, and it's precisely those instances where our darker impulses should be restrained.

And if you get the impulse to fire off a comment that this post makes me a supporter of child molestation, thank you for proving my point.

No comments:

Post a Comment