Penn State trustees: We take responsibility but won't resign

Posted: July 13, 2012

The chairwoman of Pennsylvania State University's governing board said at an afternoon news conference that she and other trustees accept full responsibility for the horrors laid out in the Freeh report - but would not resign as a result.

Chair Karen Peetz, flanked by a grim-looking Penn State president Rodney Erickson and equally sober board member Kenneth Frazier, faced 70 reporters, photographers, and TV cameramen here at the downtown Hilton Hotel.

The first question: When were she and the other board members going to step down?

"We are not intending to resign," Peetz said, adding that the board was undergoing a "natural evolution" through rotating elections. "We believe the stability of the university is important, and that we now really get going on what needs to be done."

She described herself and the other board members as "horrified" by the revelations in the report. "There are not enough superlatives to use."

The board and administration are determined to ensure that "an event like this never happens again in our university," by implementing a series of reforms, some of which will be discussed at the public board meeting Friday. She promised much closer interaction with the administration, and more attentive oversight by the board.

"We must restore trust in our community. We don't expect it to happen overnight. We will earn it back as we move forward and develop a culture of transparency and accountability."

Frazier, chair of the special-investigations task force, which picked Freeh to conduct the investigation, spoke plainly and forcefully:

"Let me be absolutely clear. An event like this can never happen again in the Penn State University community."

Very simply, he said, the board failed in its oversight. "We are accountable for what happened here."

The administration failed, too, Frazier said, particularly former president Graham B. Spanier, former football coach Joe Paterno, Penn State athletic director Tim Curley, and retired university vice president Gary Schultz.

"Our hearts remain heavy, and we are deeply ashamed."

Erickson, appointed as president after Spanier was fired, said the school was moving to turn Freeh's recommendations into fact, compiling a team of senior vice presidents to create a plan - the details of which will be provided, he said.

He called child abuse "a problem that plagues our nation" and said that while Penn State has "a special duty" to address it as a social ill, the football-loving culture of the university was not solely at fault.

"Penn State's best days are in front of us," he said. "Penn State will emerge from this as an even better and stronger institution."

Peetz was asked if Paterno should continue to be honored at the school. That, she said, is "a very sensitive topic. . . . We believe that with the report's findings, this is something that will need to be continue to be discussed."

It was plain, though, she said, that Paterno's legacy of long, esteemed service "is now marred, and we have to step back and say what does that mean."

Frazier said Paterno and the other men were responsible for "inexcusable failures to protect children." But Paterno also did tremendous good, he said, and "if you want to measure the man's life, you have to measure all the things he did."

He and Peetz admitted the board should have pushed Spanier much harder for information and specifics about the early allegations against Sandusky.

They were asked if they felt misled by Spanier. "We had a huge degree of trust in Graham Spanier," Frazier said. "In retrospect, frankly, we were not appropriately pushing to get deeper answers."

Remember, he said, that until Sandusky was arrested, Spanier was one of the most respected university presidents in the country.

"We believed we were being told what was accurate. In retrospect, what we were told was not accurate."


Contact Jeff Gammage at 215-854-2415 or jgammage@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @JeffGammage.

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