If it happens in the dark… Keep it there
The question of why a State Attorney, a University Police Department, and a college president would desire to cover up a sexual assault should be one that is difficult to answer. In the Florida State University case, one answer was money. Money is king. Another answer was the fear of loss of a good reputation. A tarnished image risks loss of enrollment dollars. Endowments will shrink if schools are held accountable for the safety of their female students and it is discovered that they have been less than vigilant answering the well-being of all their students. There is a considerable amount of money at stake. In 2012, three schools mentioned in The Hunting Ground, for instances of sexual assaults: Harvard, Stanford, and Yale, had endowments totaling $67,000,000,000.
It is not just the flow of money that causes a lapse in morality. Simple self preservation mandates that individuals remain silent about damaging prejudicial information. Threatened with a loss of tenure, faculty members can easily be persuaded to adhere to the code of silence that permeates the hallowed halls of academia. The pursuit of justice is admirable but the journey can be stopped at the point where the unemployment line starts.
Individuals, not just institutions, when threatened with the loss of money or reputation, are just as likely to forget their morality, abandon their virtue, and return their heads to the lucrative vacuum of the sand from which they came. It is very easy to simply say, “I don’t want to get involved.” It is easy to say, “I don’t want to hear about it.” The recent revelations regarding the Penn State coverup of sexual abuse by Jerry Sandusky and the denial by coach, Joe Paterno illustrate just how easy it is to willfully ignore these situations.
In 1968 sociologists identified a phenomenon they termed the Bystander Effect, which offers answers to why people are more comfortable in turning their backs on those in need.
As with many complicated issues, it is best to ask who has the most to gain or lose if X happens. A loss of students, money, and reputation is too much for universities to bear if they choose the honorable path and admit the scale of the sexual assault problem. Instead they choose the dishonorable road of darkness and lies, cover ups, out of court settlements, and denial. Truth can set them free, but they will never know. We will never know.
There would be no loss of revenue or reputation, if there was the leadership courage to confront evil, admit its presence, and stand united against it. However, courage is lacking at the highest levels of all institutions and has been replaced with pride, arrogance, greed, and lies.