On the same day that Nature published yet another editorial repudiating public examination of the conduct of academic institutions, Penn State President Graham Spanier was fired from his $813,000/year job for failing to ensure that a proper investigation was carried out in respect to pedophilia allegations in Penn State’s hugely profitable football program. The story is receiving massive coverage in North America because the iconic Penn State football coach, Joe Paterno, was also fired today.
CA readers are aware of Spanier’s failure to ensure proper investigation of Climategate emails and his untrue puffs about the ineffective Penn State Inquiry Committee, reported at CA here and by the the Penn State Collegian as follows:
Graham Spanier addressed the inquiry and the panel’s work during the Board of Trustees meeting on Jan. 22. Penn State President Spanier is quoted as saying:
“I know they’ve taken the time and spent hundreds of hours studying documents and interviewing people and looking at issues from all sides,” Spanier said.
Spanier’s claims were totally untrue. Not only did the Inquiry Committee fail to “look at issues from all sides”, they didn’t even interview or take evidence from critics – as they were required to do under the applicable Penn State policy. As I reported at CA at the time:
The only interviews mentioned in the report (aside from Mann) are with Gerry North and Donald Kennedy, editor of Science. [Since they are required to provide a transcript or summary of all interviews, I presume that the Inquiry did not carry out any other interviews.] What does Donald Kennedy know about the matter? These two hardly constitute “looking at issues from all sides”. [A CA reader observed below that "North [at a Rice University event] admitted that he had not read any of the EAU e-mails and did not even know that software files were included in the release.”] They didn’t even talk to Wegman. Contrary to Spanier’s claim, they did not make the slightest effort to talk to any critic or even neutral observer.
Although State Senator Piccola had written to Penn State President Spanier asking him to ensure that “the university must deploy its fullest resources to conduct an investigation of this case”, the Inquiry Committee decided that the investigation committee should not investigate three of the four charges “synthesized” by the inquiry committee and, as a result, despite the request of Piccola and others, no investigation was ever carried out Penn State on any of the key issues e.g the “trick… to hide the decline”, Mann’s role in the email deletion enterprise organised by Phil Jones or the failure to report adverse data which the House Energy and Commerce Committee had asked about (but not investigated by the NAS panel, whose terms of reference were sabotaged by Ralph Cicerone, President of NAS).
When told by the subsequent Investigation Committee that they weren’t investigating the substantive charges, Richard Lindzen told the committee,
“It’s thoroughly amazing. I mean these issues are explicitly stated in the emails. I’m wondering what’s going on?”
Clive Crook of the Atlantic Monthly mercilessly criticized Penn State for their fatuous findings that success in bringing revenue to the university and accolades from peers necessarily meant that misconduct was precluded:
The Penn State inquiry exonerating Michael Mann — the paleoclimatologist who came up with “the hockey stick” — would be difficult to parody. Three of four allegations are dismissed out of hand at the outset: the inquiry announces that, for “lack of credible evidence”, it will not even investigate them. …
You think I exaggerate?
This level of success in proposing research, and obtaining funding to conduct it, clearly places Dr. Mann among the most respected scientists in his field. Such success would not have been possible had he not met or exceeded the highest standards of his profession for proposing research…
Had Dr. Mann’s conduct of his research been outside the range of accepted practices, it would have been impossible for him to receive so many awards and recognitions, which typically involve intense scrutiny from scientists who may or may not agree with his scientific conclusions…
Clearly, Dr. Mann’s reporting of his research has been successful and judged to be outstanding by his peers. This would have been impossible had his activities in reporting his work been outside of accepted practices in his field.
In short, the case for the prosecution is never heard. Mann is asked if the allegations (well, one of them) are true, and says no.
In the case of Climategate, President Spanier apparently saw nothing wrong with reasoning that equated revenue generation with virtue and accepted the report.
In such a febrile environment, the likelihood of wilful blindness in respect to the far more profitable football program was that much greater and that appears to have been what happened. Even though a Penn State staff member witnessed a rape of a 10-year old by a more senior Penn State official, the junior Penn State staff member did not intervene at the time and investigation by more senior Penn State officials appears to have been cursory until a recent grand jury. (For example, they don’t appear to have bothered even identifying or interviewing the victims.)
It’s hard not to transpose the conclusions of the Penn State Climategate “investigation” into Penn State’s attitude towards misconduct charges in their profitable football program:
This level of success on the football field and revenue generated from it, clearly places Coaches Paterno and Sandusky among the most respected professionals in their field. Such success would not have been possible had he not met or exceeded the highest standards of their profession in operating a football program…
Had Coach Paterno or Coach Sandusky’s conduct of their program been outside the range of accepted practices, it would have been impossible for them to receive so many awards and recognitions, which typically involve intense scrutiny from peers who may or may not agree with his program …
Spanier planned to introduce Michael Mann at an invited lecture next February. I guess that someone else will make the introduction.
Spanier was fired not because of any personal role in the Sandusky football scandal, but because of negligence on his part in ensuring that the allegations were properly investigated. This was not the only case in which Spanier failed to ensure proper investigation of misconduct allegations. As noted above, Spanier had falsely reported to the Penn State trustees and the public that the Penn State Inquiry Committee had properly interviewed critics and had examined the Climategate documents and issues “from all sides”.