July 24th, 2012

Penn State is the Typical American Workplace

I was only ever on the Penn State campus as a teen playing politics in “Boy’s State.” Though as a native Pennsylvanian, I was immersed in the holier-than-thou aura surrounding football coach Joe Paterno. Other colleges must have hated the super-ethicality myth. That’s what it was — a delusional myth. Another institutional illusion shattered by reality.

Now that the NCAA announced its punishment plan for Penn State spread over the next four years, I’m certain many opponents dance on Paterno’s grave. The school took down his statue. The NCAA stripped Paterno of over 100 game victories. All because of the shame brought to Paterno and PSU by former coach Jerry Sandusky.

The bigger story, if something can be bigger than football at a NCAA Div. I university, is that the entire institution was humbled. When reports about Sandusky’s child molestation surfaced back in 1998, Paterno and the PSU Administration covered it up. Sandusky was not effectively banned from bringing boys on campus. He was beloved by JoePa and that was enough for the university bureaucrats. Several quit in disgrace before most details were revealed in the Freeh report. All will face lawsuits. Even the PSU chief counsel has an attorney.

In other words, to defend the institution, grave misdeeds were ignored by the highest level managers. They ignored allegations of child abuse. Sandusky raped with impunity.

Forget for a moment that child abuse was the deed. Just look at the response of the university managers. They put the institution and their careers above all else.

How is PSU different from the contemporary workplace? Not much. It acted just like the typical mid-size corporation — without ethics.

Corporate “leaders” maximize profits and ignore their moral compass, if they ever had one. They saw Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street” back in 1987 and chose to emulate the greedy Gordon Gekko character. They choose to act ruthlessly because there are no checks on that behavior in America. It is at the heart of the definition of “doing business.”

Though universities, schools, churches, non-profit organizations and hospitals are much different than retail stores or the floor of the stock market, all enterprises copy the dysfunctional for-profit corporate way of conducting business. There are no industries for workers to seek employment that demonstrate purposeful, ethical ways of organizing work serving others. Everywhere it’s all about the “bottom line,” people be damned.

So, Penn State is not rare. It is the typical American workplace where dirty secrets are kept and all the mental energy is spent spinning delusional myths about being a great place to work. It is a dishonest place. Just ask anyone who is bullied at work.


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This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 24th, 2012 at 9:03 am and is filed under Commentary by G. Namie, The New America. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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