McQueary, Paterno and Penn State’s wistleblower policy

Published January 8, 2012

In the course of researching Penn State’s ethics rules, I came across its wistleblower policy, whose aim is to  “encourage and protect from Retaliation those who desire to report potential violations” of university standards. It was implemented in June last year.

The policy is broadly worded to protect anyone who reports any potential violations to Penn State or outside agencies. It says:

“No individual who makes or advises the University that he or she intends to make a Good Faith Report of suspected Wrongful Conduct to the University or an Appropriate Authority … shall be subject to Retaliation from any member of the University faculty, staff, or student body.”

And what exactly is retaliation?

“Retaliation shall include, but not be limited to, harassment, discrimination, threats of physical harm, job termination, punitive work schedule or research assignments, decrease in pay or responsibilities, or negative impact on academic progress.”

Say what you will about the actions Paterno and McQueary took after Sandusky allegedly assaulted a boy in the locker room shower. But Joe’s firing, and McQueary’s placement on administrative leave, were clearly retaliation for reporting what allegedly took place.

Penn State violated its own wistleblower policy in this case. And that has sent a terrible message to all employees. If  they do what they think is right, if they play by the rules, their protection isn’t guaranteed, despite what the Board of Trustees have mandated.