The Penn State Board of Trustees weekend retreat promised to have some thrills and chills, and this Turkey was not disappointed, tuning in from afar. In particular, Joel Myers addressed the board with the impassioned speech below, for which he received a standing ovation.
Jerry Sandusky is convicted as a sick and monstrous man. Under the guise of helping children, he victimized them. Those victims continue to suffer to this day. Some were victimized on our campus, and we take as much responsibility for that as is humanly possible.
By shining the light on what happened and becoming a leader against child sexual abuse, we hope to save tens of thousands of potential future victims nationwide from a similar fate as well as help those who have suffered here.
Education and awareness is the key to reducing sexual abuse, which is a plague upon this nation. Education is what we are all about. One in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused. Sexual abuse is not a rarity. It is all too common in this society. We are learning it has happened not only at Penn State but at other colleges and universities. If there is any good from this tragedy, it is the spotlight that has been shown on this epidemic of child abuse and the challenge to stop it.
Penn State is a great university. It was great prior to November and it is today. It was a great university prior to the Freeh report and it is today. Penn State was a great university before the NCAA’s unfair sanctions were forced upon it and it is today.
We have had high admission standards. We are one of the top universities, not only in the United States, but in the world.
Penn State leads the way in many fields. The Penn State faculty, staff, students, alumni and the entire Penn State community contribute significantly to Pennsylvania, the United States, and the global society.
Once we became aware of this tragedy — and we have also learned that villains of this type are great manipulators and coverup artists — we did everything a good institution should do to move forward, and we took action to get the facts out.
We hired an independent investigator to explore and provide his expert opinion and findings. However the Freeh report, despite what the NCAA consent decree says, is still being reviewed by the Board, and has not been fully accepted. We committed to a full disclosure. We committed to move forward in a healthy way, correcting what was wrong, and providing information to law enforcement officials so that those accused would have their day in court.
Penn State has had a clean and enviable athletic record, one of only three universities in the nation to never have a major sanction by the NCAA. Penn State has maintained one of the highest graduation rates among football athletes compared to their peer institutions. This didn’t occur in only one year, it happened year after year, decade after decade.
One should ask why is it that the NCAA wants to tear down this model?
Why is the NCAA, which includes among its members, schools and universities who graduate 20 percent of their basketball players and 50 percent of their football players, sanctioning Penn State for allowing athletics to trump academics, when it is Penn State which graduates 88 percent of its football players, not one year or two, but year after year and decade after decade.
These sanctions are a blight on the NCAA and our competing institutions that make up the NCAA boards.
My 9-year old son has said to me, “Dad, I helped cheer Penn State on to victory last year and now those wins have been erased. I did what you always told me to do, Dad, I gave it my all, and my cheering and enthusiasm helped support the student athletes. I felt good when we won games. It does not seem fair that they took away those wins, not only from Penn State, but away from the athletes, from the fans, and from me.”
Hundreds of thousands of Penn State families have similarly suffered. How does this help the concept of higher education, of fairness and dignity, of inspiration? What is it even based on and what does it even mean? It is a fiction; the games were won based on hard work by thousands, unrelated to Sandusky and his crimes. It is one more fiction that the NCAA has used to simply inflict hurt on the Nittany Nation with no benefit to anyone. It is designed to damage innocent students who played on the field and millions who attended the games. It is a petulant child gone wild. The NCAA has lost its moral compass. In the cold light of day we must realize we have to stand up against this, not stand down.
There is also the issue of the “vultures” – coaches from other schools stalking our football players outside the football building after the NCAA said it was “legal” to steal away our players, even though the NCAA normally considers such recruiting illegal. The NCAA essentially said stealing is legal against Penn State.
If we must play the schools that did this to us lets be sure the crowds overwhelm them with our noise and good sportsmanship and the Nittany Lions show them no mercy on the field.
Should we even be a part of the Big Ten if our own conference schools helped tear us down? I thought they were here to help us, not to hurt us. In my view this does not fit with the ideals of fair play that we teach our students. In the cold light of day we must realize we have to stand up against this, not stand down.
The NCAA are people who tell Penn State that we put athletics before academics. The reverse is true. Perhaps these university presidents were looking in the mirror when they conjured up that statement.
For institutions of higher learning to disregard the facts and reach false conclusions betrays the very core principles for which institutions of higher learning stand and have stood for centuries.
Shame on them all. I am tired of being told we need to put practicality above principle. In the cold light of day we must realize we have to stand up against this, not stand down.
Our lawyers have used the term “crammed down,” where Emmert, the man who “negotiated” with our president Rod Erickson essentially said “you sign this agreement or you have the death penalty, you will play no football for four years.”
“Also, Mr. President, you are not allowed to tell the Board of Trustees. You are going to do this because if you tell them and it leaks out, we will settle for nothing less than four years of the winds of October and November blowing through an empty Beaver stadium. By the way, Dr. Erickson, we do not care if by not telling the Board of Trustees you may be violating the charter of the University. And we do not care, Mr. President, that by not telling the Board of Trustees and getting their approval, you will be violating one of the major recommendations of the Freeh report itself and the very principles we are telling you to abide by. We are the NCAA, Mr. President, and we are a dictatorship. We do what we please and you, as an NCAA member, must accept it. So we have power over your institution now and forever.”
Interestingly, some in the NCAA say it did not happen that way, they say no “death penalty” was threatened, but review of the quotes from Emmert and Ray support that it occurred, just as President Erickson has said. I will pass out a review of the quotes that demonstrate these comments. But, even there, a straight answer from the NCAA seems impossible to secure. We see parsed words in a clear attempt to paint Dr. Erickson as a liar. This too is not acceptable. In the cold light of day I believe we have to stand up against this not stand down.
Are these tactics and this lack of clarity and candor what the NCAA stands for? Threats, coercion, lying, stealing, and intimidation are not what we teach our students as appropriate business tactics for a profit or non-profit organization. I would hope such answers on a test would get a failing grade for ethics in the Smeal College of Business and in a law class at the Dickinson School of Law.
In addition, the very processes of the NCAA were not followed by the NCAA and the NCAA seems hell bent on turning a deaf ear to concerns by anyone to review its own despicable actions. In the cold light of day I believe we have to stand up against this, not stand down.
This all contrasts very sharply with the aggressive actions Penn State took quickly and with transparency and candor as the difficult news surrounding the Sandusky crimes came to light.
I personally believe, the NCAA is no longer worthy to be considered a representative of higher education. Furthermore, this powerful NCAA, an association of university presidents, apparently free of control by faculty and university boards is now seriously damaging the mission and reputation of higher education in America. The NCAA needs the fresh air of reform to blow through it. I say to the faculties and the boards of American colleges and universities, take back your institutions. I applaud the recent actions of our own faculty senate in this regard.
Finally, if any of the sanctions against Penn State are to stand, they need to fit within the rules and standards of the NCAA, need to fit within the due process of the NCAA procedures in its charter and by-laws that its member institutions have agreed upon, and needs to meet the high standards that higher education stands for in a system of fairness, and within the American system of the rule of law and justice.
“It’s time for this board and this university to stop looking back and start looking ahead. I in no way defend the decisions of the NCAA but I embrace our mission and our responsibility to serve our 95,000 students, our research, our extension, and our faculty.
“I believe that many times we live with unfairness. It is extremely unfortunate that we find ourselves in these circumstances, but at the same time we are Penn State and as our chair said, we are going to move forward, we’re going to meet our mission.
“We are absolutely going to be the university the nation looks up to again.”
Not if we’re viewed as a bunch of cowards who allow ourselves to get slapped around by bullies at every turn. Sorry, Eckel. This isn’t your truck farm.
“To talk about things we can’t change is not a good use of our energy and our time,” added Dambly.
The chairwoman of the BoT, Karen Peetz, said, “We must not — and will not — waver in accepting reality and responsibility. We will take decisive action to right wrongs, change and improve processes and operations, and demonstrate values-based leadership in all that we do.”
In other words, she said nothing.
She was right about one thing, though: It ain’t going to get any easier. “Victim 1” has filed suit against the university. So, the piling-on effect will continue. I’m not saying that the family wouldn’t have sued Penn State if the Freeh report wasn’t accepted, but with that tacit admission of guilt, the university is ripe for the taking. They’ve already told the judge and jury they’re culpable, so the only things in doubt are the amount of the award and how many other victims will join the party, encouraged by the comparative ease of the plaintiff proving a case when the defendant’s defense is, “Please don’t hit me too hard!”
There’ll be another all day session on Sunday. One of the issues to be discussed, but not decided upon, is the search for a new university president and provost. No votes will be taken this weekend at all; therefore, this has been classified as an informational, rather than a business, meeting.
So much for the rumors I
ridiculed presented last week about heads rolling at the weekend board meeting. One prediction was that Spanier would spill the beans during the week, which he did. The rumors about the Clery Act coming to a head were untrue, yet it seems that part of this weekend’s meeting will be devoted to retrospectively condemning internal record keeping practices in anticipation of being slapped silly by the US Department of Education.
That’s the Penn State way of late: make a grandstand play at the eleventh hour in hopes of appeasing the big bad bullies. It didn’t work with the NCAA when PSU removed the Paterno statue and announced the resignation of fomer BoT chair Steve Garban in the days leading up to the draconian, unfair, vindictive sanctions. The NCAA perceived only weakness. So why should washing dirty underwear in public make the Feds feel like going easy on PSU?
The other rumor was that the accreditation issue would come to a head this week, but the visit by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education isn’t scheduled until November.
I had the feeling that this weekend’s board retreat would be somewhat of a dog and pony show, and I think I was right.