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A failure of courageous leadership: Sex, embarrassment, and (not) speaking up in the Penn State sexual abuse scandal

Kristen Lucas, PhD J. K. Beggan S. Allison
Leadership and sexuality: Power, principles and processes. February 1, 2018

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Abstract

On November 4, 2011, news of what would become known as the “Penn State scandal” broke after a grand jury report was released that documented former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual assault of at least eight young boys. The investigation into these horrific crimes led to the revelation that leaders of Penn State actively chose to conceal the abuse for fear of bad publicity. In this chapter, we foreground the intersection of sexuality and leadership in this case. To analyze the failed communication within this case, we provide a focal narrative reconstructed from grand jury testimony and the Freeh Report. We demonstrate how the topic of sexuality—along with its taboos in workplaces generally, but especially within locker rooms, athletics, and among authority figures—led to watered-down and vague conversations, thereby exposing a lack of courage.

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