Robert Steven Williams wonders what a moral compass is when it’s not even being guided by morals.
Money didn’t molest those kids in Happy Valley, but money smashed the moral compass that caused those in power to not stop a known pedophile. The Penn State football program is the third-highest revenue-producing program in the country, generating over $50 million a year (not counting the impact success has on alumni donations).
The Catholic Church faced a similar dilemma with its pedophile priests. The Church brand was too valuable to be put at risk even though children were being molested.
Money and power were also at the root of why the global financial system almost collapsed in 2008. Those running the major banks understood better than anyone what was happening, but they were making too much money, and when the music finally stopped, they knew better than anyone that there would be enough blame to spread around so that they personally, as well as their firms, would survive.
Coming clean is costly. Covering up is worse, unless of course, you don’t get caught.
It’s naïve to think that the moral compass of those in power is always guided by doing the right thing. Their allegiance is often to their money, their legacy, their influence. They will always do what is in their best interest, whether it’s the church, a banker, a politician, a university trustee, or a head coach.
And yet in today’s world of instant access, cell phone cameras, and social media, covering up gets harder. If that 2002 shower incident had happened today, an iPhone photo would have put an end to Sandusky’s “horsing around” in an instant.
But many in power are still of a pre-Internet age. They don’t get how the world has changed. All the money and all the power in the world can’t stop a photo uploaded to a Twitter account. Ask those still alive who once ruled Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya about that.
Social Media and the increasing prevalence of smart phones should provide incentive for those in power to do the right thing, even if it’s for the wrong reasons.
But until that happens, improved oversight by government agencies, board of directors, and university trustees will go a long way in keeping those in charge focused on realizing that doing the right thing maximizes long-term brand value.
Unfortunately for those kids, the damage is done. Hopefully all of this attention will bring sharper focus to oversight to create an environment that ensures swift action the next time something like this occurs.