Elizabeth Yore was special counsel to Harpo Inc., Oprah Winfrey’s production company. She also served as child protection counsel on a range of matters, including at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa. Yore was general counsel of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. She served as the general counsel and director of the International Division of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia. She consults on child protection issues with corporations, non profits and international child abuse cases and issues.
Remember when sports pundits called the Penn State football program squeaky clean? The famous Joe Paterno creed, “winning with honor” served as the high standard for collegiate football. Then, the Sandusky scandal erupted. The proud and pristine tradition of Penn State is now forever tarnished by its child predator, Jerry Sandusky.
Where and when will the next Sandusky emerge? Sadly, Sandusky is not an outlier, unique to Penn State. Although he was a prominent defensive coordinator who served under the nation’s most revered college coach, his criminal behavior mimics the classic pedophile profile. Sandusky, stripped of his title, is your garden variety child perp.
While the country was focused on Penn State, a number of colleges were dealing with their own child sex scandals. The stories are numbingly similar; knowledge of predatory behavior and delays in reporting child predators to law enforcement. It is time for universities to start paying attention or face the loss of reputation and endowment in the process. Here is a the troubling lineup:
University of Michigan
The Board of Regents recently ordered an external investigation of the six-month reporting delay of child pornography discovered on an employee’s thumb drive. The employee, Stephen Jenson, was a University of Michigan Hospital pediatric resident. At least eight university employees, including a university lawyer, knew of the child pornography allegedly on Jenson’s computer in May 2011, but did not notify the police. The matter was reopened in November and finally reported to university police after doctors at the University of Michigan hospital read about the Sandusky scandal. Jenson is now charged in a federal criminal complaint with receipt of child pornography and possession of child pornography. The U.S. Department of Education is also investigating the University of Michigan for the delay in reporting the crime. Sound familiar?
Recently, officials at The Citadel admitted they did not do enough after learning that an employee who has been accused of sexually abusing at least five boys in recent years was brought to the school’s attention back in 2007. An internal university investigation was conducted, but police were never informed. Louis ReVille, a 2002 graduate of The Citadel, was hired by the college as a camp counselor for three summers, from 2001 to 2003. According to Citadel documents, he lured boys to his room with pizza and Chinese food to view pornography and performed sex acts. The former coach who once worked as a summer camp counselor at The Citadel military college was sentenced to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual abuse crimes involving 23 young male victims. In November of 2011, the school said it had investigated accusations against ReVille in 2007 but took no action. Sound familiar?
The massive influx of children on college campuses
Nearly every university in the United States runs summer youth programs, everything from football to marching band camps. Every summer, millions of children participate in activities and live on college campuses. The recruitment of underage children to participate in and live on college campuses is big business for universities. These children’s camps generate huge revenue and provide a valuable recruitment tool for college teams.
Until Sandusky, the public didn’t realize that universities were rife with children. What are children doing on college campuses anyway?
The mission of universities is to educate young adults, by imparting knowledge and skills in a rigorous classroom setting and to prepare adult students for the world of work. Colleges are not qualified to operate and house summer sports camps for 8-year-olds. Yet, colleges opened their doors to children without the training and knowledge to serve and protect young children. These college summer camps are glorified employment agencies for grad students, coaches and professors.
Every university board of trustees and administration should be both vigilant and terrified that one of its employees might be a Sandusky.