Brass Week and a side discussion on moral imperatives

Discussion in 'Publicly and Privately Funded Military Colleges' started by Lawman32RPD, Nov 16, 2011.

  1. Lawman32RPD

    Lawman32RPD Member

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    Our Fish reports that “Brass Week” is proceeding in full force this week. Not being a TAMU graduate I had to ask what was “Brass Week”. Our Fish responded “Brass Week is a beautiful tradition. As our CO explained it: As A&M began to expand in all sorts of ways, some classes began to think that the Corps was losing focus on creating soldiers, statesmen and knightly gentlemen. Brass Week is when fish earn their “Corps Brass” and prove that they have earned their place in the Corps of Cadets. During Brass Week, fish go through a number of various activities and trying times to test the DISH [Discipline, Integrity, Selfless Service, and Honor] values and mold them into soldiers, statesmen and knightly gentlemen.” Our Fish went on to say that earning your Corps Brass was a big deal to the Fish. I was told that when a Fish finally earns it, one of their sophomores (“pissheads” in TAMU lexicon) will give you their brass. Our Fish told me that “Pissheads never give you anything but grief and despair so the fact that they give you the best part of your uniform is awesome” and ended by saying that it was worth the price to get the Brass.

    I am waiting to see how the week (which is a bit of a flexible term) turns out.

    As a weary old ex-street cop and a long time federal prosecutor I have of course been paying attention to the news issues relating to Penn State and the Citadel. I know all to well that the first press reports are often not completely accurate - that’s nothing new. I hope that in the fullness of time we’ll learn more of what happened. That said I had to share a posting from another long time fed on the subject (which by the by shows us lawyers can have a heart too). Given what our Fish is learning I’m going to send it along to her as well.


    Ex-Fed Prosecutor: A Letter to My Son on Moral Decisions in Light of Penn State
    Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.

    Ross Parker
    By Ross Parker
    ticklethewire.com
    Dear Son,

    As your enthusiasm builds for leaving home and going off to college in a few months, I want to talk with you about having to make on-the-spot moral, legal, and social decisions when you are on your own.

    As you know, the news has been filled with reports and commentary about the alleged incidents at Penn State involving former Defensive Coach Jerry Sandusky sexually molesting disadvantaged young boys who participated in his charity. He has denied the charges in the indictment, and due process of law will determine his guilt or innocence.

    Up for discussion in the unforgiving public forum are the actions of Assistant Coach Mike McQueary who, on March 1, 2002 at 9:30 p.m., while he was a grad assistant entered the practice facility to obtain some video tapes to review. He heard noises from the shower area and went to investigate. According to reports of his grand jury testimony, he was “distraught” when he saw Sandusky raping a ten-year old boy.

    It is unclear what happened next. McQueary apparently made no mention in the grand jury about intervening to save the child, but in the last couple days he has hinted that he forced Sandusky to stop. He then called his father, with whom he had a close relationship, for advice on what to do next. Then he contacted Coach Joe Paterno and reported the incident. Later he also told two other Athletic Department officials. These three, however, say that his report was not detailed enough to cause them to take further action of some kind.

    It is clear that no one reported the crime to the police or to Child Protective Services. Allegedly Sandusky’s access to the children and the Penn State facilities was not restricted, and he inflicted other such assaults on children during the nine years that have followed. Both Paterno and McQueary continued to publicly support Sandusky’s charitable activities.

    The public reaction to McQueary and Paterno has ranged from commendation to vilification. Paterno, probably the most revered football coach in America, was summarily fired and McQueary, perhaps because of his legal protection as a whistleblower, has been placed on paid administrative leave. Probably neither will have any connection to college football again.

    The issue worth thinking about is whether McQueary’s response, whatever it was, presents a moral and legal lesson for the rest of us. In my generation a woman named Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death in New York’s Central Park while dozens failed to take action when they heard her cries for help. Social psychologists have labeled the phenomenon diffusion of responsibility or bystander effect, but the bottom line is that, when confronted with a moral imperative, people who could have saved her life failed to act.

    McQueary has been showered with the moral opprobrium of the commentators who have assumed he failed to stop the assault. They have hastened to assure their listeners that they would have assuredly stepped up stopped the violence and called the cops. Jane Turner, an FBI psychological profiler who specializes in child sex crimes, however has indicated that in her experience most people would have walked away as McQueary is alleged to have done:

    “It takes enormous strength to put one’s moral integrity over your personal inclination to protect fellow colleagues who have committed malfeasance, or criminal activity. The FBI, like Penn State and the Catholic Church, are entities that allows their personnel to report allegations up a chain of command but those in positions of power or change, fail to take immediate or strong actions. It simply boils down to the fact that those in power have a stronger desire to preserve the reputation of their institution, than taking the road of truth or justice. Entities like Penn State, the Catholic Church and the FBI all share something in common; they operate in an insular world where rules or laws that apply to everyone else, do not apply to them.”

    Early in my career as a prosecutor, my boss Len Gilman made it clear to us that our job was to do what was right even if we as individuals or our office had to pay the price of being embarrassed or worse. And a couple times we were.

    Assume for the sake of this letter that Mike McQueary is neither a hero nor a villain but just a guy who hesitated, as a majority of others would have in 2002, when suddenly confronted with a terrible moral issue. Just a guy who knew that the price to be paid for more aggressive action would be to jeopardize the head coach he idolized, the powerful institution and football program to which he was so loyal, and the future he wanted so badly.

    So he called his dad for guidance, then Joe Pa. And that apparently was it, for nine years, until it hit the fan, as it seems with increasing frequency to do. If we have learned nothing else from the massive tragedy that has so damaged the Catholic Church, it is that doing nothing, protecting people and institutions that seem so invulnerable at the time, will usually be disastrous for everyone concerned. And now a legend will die, a great university tarnished for a generation and saddled with millions of dollars of civil settlements, and an apparently otherwise fine young man’s dreams dashed forever. Worst of all, boys who had tough enough lives already were damaged by a man who should have been isolated so he couldn’t harm others.

    Son, I hope you always have the luxury of time for meditation and parental guidance before you have to act on a moral issue. But if you don’t, consider this your father’s advice.

    Demonstrate the courage I know you have to step up, do what is right, protect the vulnerable, call the police and support them in any way they ask. If there is a price to pay, we will share it together and you will be compensated by the respect of your family and friends.

    Oh, and call your mother once in a while.

    Dad
     
  2. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    Thanks Lawman. I am reading this on a blackberry while in a customer's factory in Indianapolis so if there are any typo's please overlook them.

    I think this speaks to why VMI' honor code includes " nor tolerate those who do". It is not enough to know and personally avoid doing evil. To see dishonor and do nothing is to condone it. But that is not the way most people operate- even if personally they would never do something like what has been reported, society schools them to leave action to someone else. But just as a doctor has an obligation to treat those in need of immediate lifesaving care, we have an obligation to act to prevent obvious harm to those who are in trouble. I don't know what really transpired at PSU but it certainly seems that everyone took a "not my responsibility" approach. It doesn't take bravery to act- it takes strength of character.
     
  3. pennak

    pennak Member

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    As one DOJ lawyer to another I congratulate you on that absolutely wonderful letter!
     
  4. Lawman32RPD

    Lawman32RPD Member

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    I wish I could claim the credit for the letter but I didn't write it. I hijacked it from ticklethewire.com which is a site that covers federal law enforcement issues. Believe me, I have the appraisals that show I don't write that well. JGC
     
  5. pennak

    pennak Member

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    Lawman you are too modest. Always a dead give away of someone who gives no quarter in the courtroom :eek:
     

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