Type of paper: Case Study

Topic: Ethics, Students, Education, Theory, Coach, Virtue, Actions, University

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2021/02/16

For this paper, the case selected for analysis and discussion is the Penn State case. The research method that will be used for this paper will involve the use of secondary sources and internet resources to find information on the scandal. Research indicates that the Penn state scandal is a historical case where a number of ethical issues are evident. In the Penn State case, Jerry Sandusky (an assistant coach of the Penn State football team) was found guilty of child molestation that had been perpetrated over a three-decade period. However, of particular importance for this paper are the actions of Joe Palerno who was the head coach of the team at the time. Information collected from the case indicates that Joe Palerno was aware of the sex abuse being perpetrated by his assistant coach. As a leader, this was unethical since he was supposed to ensure that he protects the students he coaches (Pennsylvania State University, 2015).
The FBI report for the Penn State case was used in order to reach the assessment above. In this case, the ethical theory that is applicable is whistleblowing. This is defined as the actions of an individual aimed at exposing crime, wrongdoing or any form of misconduct within an organization (Vandekerckhove, 2006). This relates directly to head Coach Joe Palerno who should have reported Sandusky’s actions the moment he was aware of his actions. The coach in this case had the social responsibility of reporting the matter to the authorities.
Additionally, virtue ethics can also be related to this case. Virtue ethics is an ethical school of thought that considers character as the most important aspects of ethical decision-making. This implies that based on the virtue ethics theory an individual should develop and demonstrate good character traits such as honesty, bravery, empathy, and sympathy. On the other hand, virtue ethics discourages negative character traits such as dishonesty, and corruption just to mention a few (Taylor & Taylor, 2002). Virtue ethics in this case is important since it can be adopted by Penn State University as its guide for ethical decision-making as well as change the climate and culture at the institution. The reason for this recommendation is that virtue ethics will encourage the development of good character at the institution (Athanassoulis, 2013).
Furthermore, in order to promote change the top-level management needs to be involved in the entire change process. Based on organization theory it is important to ensure that top-bottom change model is adopted by any institution. This is mainly because it encourages change at the top, which in turn encourages subordinate employees and staff to adopt the change.

Alternative courses of action to create a system of best practices solutions

According to a report by the FBI, which investigated the crimes, it is evident that Sandusky committed his crimes while under the watch of the head coach; however, he did not receive any form of reprimanding nor was he reported to the authorities for his actions (Pennsylvania State University, 2015). Ethical decision-making would dictate that he report the matter to the university administration or the relevant authorities. It is clear from the FBI report filed for the case that Joe may have been aware of the sexual abuse for the last 14 years. The main reason for his actions is the ‘win by all means’ culture evident at the university football team. This implies that he was not ready to jeopardize his chances of winning games by reporting his most trusted assistant coach, Sandusky (Pennsylvania State University, 2015).
Based on the assessment above it is clear that the best alternate course of action in the case of Joe was to report the assistant coach when he first received information on the alleged sexual offences perpetrated by his assistant coach. Furthermore, the institution should provide an alternative channel, for example, through the dean of students through which students can be able to air any issues they have with faculty members. Lastly, in order to create a system of best practices it is important to eliminate the ‘win by any means’ mentality that is ingrained in the football team. This will help in ensuring that issues faced by the team are brought to light faster in order to find solutions.

Learning Assessment

In order to convey knowledge on the case study the following steps will be used in teaching the classroom. The first step will involve introducing the case and providing information on the case to the classroom. This will involve preparing material on the case before hand. The second step will involve identifying the ethical issues evident in the case. Ethical issues such as Joe’s lack of making an ethical decision will be introduced to the case.
The third step will involve introducing the different ethical theories that can be linked to the case. This is important, as it will help students have a better grasp of the theoretical aspect of ethical decision-making. The next step will involve linking the ethical theories to the case. Students will be required to link these theories through group work. This will help students increase their understanding of the case as well as increase their level of understanding of ethics. Students will be required to research secondary sources in order to further understand the ethical theories and issues discussed in class.
In order to test the students, questions will be asked at the end of the class. Some of the questions include:

What is/are the ethical issue(s) evident in the Penn State Case?

What are some of the ethical theories that can be linked to the case?
Can you find a similar case where the same ethical theories can be linked?
Apply the information learnt in class to other issues faced by students.
The level of Bloom’s Taxonomy sought to be achieved through this learning assessment are knowledge, application, and synthesis. These are three important aspects of learning. Knowledge will help to ensure that students have a grasp of the information provided from the case. Application ensures that students can be able to take lessons from the case and apply them in different situations. Lastly, synthesis will help in ensuring that the students are able to analyze and bring together different aspects from the case in order to find patterns and alternative solutions to the problems faced.


In conclusion, it is evident from the analysis above that ethics is important in leadership. Any leader should ensure that they uphold the highest level of ethical decision-making in order to ensure that they are able to dispense their mandate as a leader. From the case information discussed above, it is clear that Joe protected his assistant coach since he needed him in order to win and continue winning. Therefore, the main ethical issue is that Joe continually ignored any sex abuse claims that were brought forward to him by students over time. He did not live up to what was expected of him as a leader since he did not protect the students that he led. The ethical theories discussed above are whistleblowing and virtue ethics. This are important aspects of leadership as they ensure that leaders make positive decisions. The case also set precedence in public administration as it offers guidance on how to deal with sex abuse issues within an institution.


Athanassoulis, N. (2013). Virtue ethics. London: Bloomsbury.
Pennsylvania State University (2015) The Freeh Report on Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://progress.psu.edu/the-freeh-report
Taylor, R., & Taylor, R. (2002). Virtue ethics: An introduction. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.
Vandekerckhove, W. (2006). Whistleblowing and organizational social responsibility: A global assessment. Aldershot, Hampshire, England: Ashgate.

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WePapers. (2021, February, 16) Penn State Case Study Samples. Retrieved May 27, 2024, from https://www.wepapers.com/samples/penn-state-case-study-samples/
"Penn State Case Study Samples." WePapers, 16 Feb. 2021, https://www.wepapers.com/samples/penn-state-case-study-samples/. Accessed 27 May 2024.
WePapers. 2021. Penn State Case Study Samples., viewed May 27 2024, <https://www.wepapers.com/samples/penn-state-case-study-samples/>
WePapers. Penn State Case Study Samples. [Internet]. February 2021. [Accessed May 27, 2024]. Available from: https://www.wepapers.com/samples/penn-state-case-study-samples/
"Penn State Case Study Samples." WePapers, Feb 16, 2021. Accessed May 27, 2024. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/penn-state-case-study-samples/
WePapers. 2021. "Penn State Case Study Samples." Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. Retrieved May 27, 2024. (https://www.wepapers.com/samples/penn-state-case-study-samples/).
"Penn State Case Study Samples," Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com, 16-Feb-2021. [Online]. Available: https://www.wepapers.com/samples/penn-state-case-study-samples/. [Accessed: 27-May-2024].
Penn State Case Study Samples. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/penn-state-case-study-samples/. Published Feb 16, 2021. Accessed May 27, 2024.

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