Posts tagged ‘loyalty’
“Everybody likes to think they would be the whistleblower. What I told my class was this: Statistically, you’re full of crap.” —Eric Silver
Of the 28 pages of essays we published in our January/February issue, which we devoted to the Sandusky scandal and its aftermath, none has received more responses than Eric Silver’s. Silver, a professor of sociology and crime, law, and justice, contributed a piece we titled “Bureaucracy, Loyalty, and Truth.”
We introduced the piece like this: “Everyone says they’d report suspected child abuse to the authorities, but most don’t. A Penn State sociologist dissects the powerful forces that prevent us from doing so.”
Silver’s perspective—based largely on his specialty, the sociology of deviance, and a class lecture he gave just days after the charges against Sandusky were filed—really struck a chord with readers. Because of the large response, we’ve decided to make the piece available here. —Lori Shontz, senior editor
I teach a class in the sociology of deviance, and we were covering the topic of adult-child sexual contact when this happened. The students had a homework assignment related to it due the night before all this broke. It was an eerie thing.
I felt like I needed to say something in class—to put the crisis in a sociological context. Two ideas came to me—one is bureaucracy, and the second is loyalty.
Everything in our world is organized by bureaucracies. You go to the grocery store, and your food’s always there, it’s on the shelves—that’s a very complex task, and it’s organized by a bureaucracy. Bureaucracies are very good at complex tasks, because they break up those tasks into small pieces that individuals can be responsible for. We’re all familiar with that in our own work lives: If we run into trouble, we tell so-and-so, and that’s it. It’s off our plate, and we continue to do what we’re supposed to do.
In this case, I don’t know the facts any more than anybody else does, but it seems as though there was reporting upward, which most of the time you’re encouraged to do. The big question is: Why didn’t people follow up after they reported upward? In some ways, it’s not a fair question. Our job descriptions aren’t to police our bosses.
I realize that everybody likes to think they would be the whistleblower. They are the ones who would risk their job, their livelihood, their future, their letters of recommendation. This belief fuels our righteous indignation at those involved. What I told my class was this: Statistically, you’re full of crap. For every 1,000 people, you’re lucky if there are two or three whistleblowers. (more…)