The biggest takeaway from a panel discussion Wednesday night titled “The Future of the NCAA and its Membership,” I thought, came at the end. And it didn’t come from either of the biggest names on the panel: Gene Corrigan or Cedric Dempsey, both former NCAA presidents.
It was R. Scott Kretchmar, Penn State’s former NCAA faculty representative and current professor of kinesiology, who said, “I think one of the difficulties that faculty and others who love Penn State are having at this time is, the issue of knowing that we need to move forward—we can’t keep tilling the soil; we have to get on with it—but the circumstances under which we’re now suffering were so unusual that it’s very difficult to do that.
“And so there may be a period of time where we have to ask questions: Were we treated fairly? Was there any kind of justice here? But eventually, we’re going to move on. Penn State’s strong. We’re going to have a good future.”
Those were the questions on everyone’s mind Wednesday night, and Kretchmar accurately described the mood of the crowd, a mix of students and townspeople.
Look at the title of the event, which was (more…)
The bookends were familiar at Saturday morning’s Rally for Resignations, which was held, organizer Eileen Morgan ’90 said, because “we believe the Penn State Board of Trustees has mismanaged the affairs of our university,” and therefore that the members of the board should step down. (She detailed her position recently in a full-page ad in the Centre Daily Times; you can read the text here.)
The opening act: football star Franco Harris ’72, introduced as the person who began talking about due process from Day One. He stood next to a Stand-Up Joe, assured the crowd that “we’re not a cult, as many believe, but we are loyal,” and argued that the trustees’ faulty decision-making after the Sandusky scandal had “laid a path of destruction never before seen on any college campus.”
The closing speaker: Anthony Lubrano ’82, who was elected to the Board of Trustees in May after becoming perhaps the second-most visible critic of how Penn State handled the Sandusky scandal. He joked that he had to “be fairly guarded” because he’s a member of the board now, but he continued to sound the theme he’s stressed since November: “We cannot move forward by leaving behind the people who made us who we are.” That’s primarily Joe Paterno, of course.
But to me, it was the lesser-known speakers in between who got to the heart of why nearly 1,000 people attended the event on the Old Main lawn.
One was John O’Donnell ’67, a faculty member in Health and Human Development, who said that many of his fellow faculty members would think he’s crazy for attending. But he told of how he came to the university in 1964, and he drew loud cheers when he said, “I think I know the culture of this university after 48 years better than Louis Freeh or Mark Emmert.”
This speaks to what I’ve heard so many critics of the board and Penn State’s administration say in a variety of forums, including our Livestream conversation with Sam Richards and Laurie Mulvey ’94g on Wednesday: that the criticism of the university’s culture in both the Freeh report and in the NCAA’s reasoning for handing down unprecedented sanctions against the football program is inaccurate and unfair. And that neither the university nor the Board of Trustees has defended Penn State in the court of public opinion.
O’Donnell stressed that in his years as a faculty member, he’d never been asked to do anything special for an athlete, and he reminded the crowd of Penn State’s top ranking both among recruiters in a Wall Street Journal survey and the number of Fulbright grants among the university’s faculty. You can get a good sense of his remarks by clicking here to read a piece he wrote for Onward State.
The other was Larry Schultz ’80, who opened his remarks by saying that he was going to list everything that the trustees had done wrong since Nov. 5. Someone in the crowd yelled, “The game starts at 3:30,” prompting a wave of laughter and applause. He also said that because he was a fair guy, he’d list what the board did right, too. Dead silence—except for more laughter and cheers.
More than any other speaker, Schultz enumerated what he thinks the board has done wrong: not being aware of the March 31, 2011, story in The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News that Jerry Sandusky ’67, ’71g was under investigation for child sex abuse, not making any public statements to counter the “talking heads” who blasted Penn State in various media throughout November, hiring Lanny Davis and Louis Freeh (whom he considers ineffective at best), and failing to resign.
Schultz pointed out that Steve Garban ’59, who was chair of the board when the scandal broke, did resign in July, “in part because he failed to alert the rest of the board” to the upcoming indictment. He questioned why John Surma ’76 and Jim Broadhurst ’65, who were also identified in the Freeh report as trustees who had known the Sandusky indictment was coming down, haven’t followed Garban’s lead.
And he wanted to know why the board’s new chair, Karen Bretherick Peetz ’77, hadn’t followed through on conducting alumni town hall meetings. So he declared the rally as the first one.
After cheers, Schultz added, “These people will be selecting our next president unless we do something.”
The crowd was passionate but well behaved throughout. Some people were clearly just passing by. I saw two people quietly holding “Proud To Support President Erickson” signs, designed in the same style as the “Proud To Support Penn State Football” and “Proud To Support Penn State Academics” signs that are hanging in windows around town.
But most people were there to call for the Board of Trustees to resign. They wore their typical blue-and-white gameday attire or shirts that said “Forever 409” or “Hey, Media, We Know The Truth,” or “Make an Impact,” or “Overstepping Their Bounds and Punishing the Innocent.”
The rally lasted an hour. Some people granted interviews to the media; others appeared to be heading directly to tailgates. I have no idea what happens next, but we’ll be watching and listening—and reporting.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Over the summer, I got a chance to ask questions of Sam Richards and Laurie Mulvey ’94g, the husband-and-wife sociology instructors who have made it a point to address the Sandusky scandal and its aftermath in class. Their SOC 119 class, Race and Ethnic Relations, is all about exploring assumptions and considering a variety of perspectives, and they brought that sensibility to the interview we published in our September/October issue. (If you missed it, click here for a downloadable PDF.)
Now it’s your turn to ask questions.
Sam and Laurie will be facilitating a discussion from 8 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday night, and you can participate in the event at this website: livestream.com/pennstater. We want you to be a part of “Emerging from the Storm: Continuing the Conversation.” You’ll be able to watch Sam and Laurie at the website, and you can ask questions, make comments and chat with other participants simply by typing into the text box in the upper right-hand corner. You don’t need to register or do anything fancy. You can also log in there with your Facebook or Twitter accounts, if you’d prefer. Our hashtag: #pennstater.
I’ll be in the room with Sam and Laurie, asking your questions and summarizing your comments. I’m there as your representative, so I need your questions and ideas.
If you’d like to get the conversation started early, you can post in the comments here or on Facebook; I’ll make sure Sam and Laurie see what you write.
We’re looking forward to hearing from you.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
I’m probably understating when I say that being a Penn Stater hasn’t been easy for the past nine months. So much sadness, so much anger, so much confusion. I haven’t spoken with anyone who doesn’t want things here to be better, but what “better” looks like—and how to make that happen—is still up in the air.
One of the things we’ve got to do is talk. Which is why we’re calling on sociology instructors Sam Richards and Laurie Mulvey ’94g, whose SOC 119 (Race and Ethnic Relations) class is among the most popular on campus and whose World in Conversation program is devoted to fostering dialogue about difficult topics, to guide us.
We’d like you to join us for a live online event—Emerging from the Storm: Continuing the Conversation—from 8 to 9:30 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, Sept. 12. You’ll be able to watch and hear Sam and Laurie as they grapple with the issues and questions, and you’ll be able to participate, too, by logging in with your Facebook or Twitter accounts, or simply by typing in the text box you’ll find at the website. No need to register.
What we want to do is build off our conversation with Sam and Laurie that’s in our September/October issue. (If you’ve not received it, you can download a PDF of the interview by clicking here.) Your participation is vital.
I’ve spent a lot of time around Sam and Laurie in the past year, first showing up unannounced to Sam’s SOC 119 class on Nov. 10, when he tweeted that he’d be talking about the scandal, then showing up invited a few times, then reporting on a story about World in Conversation for an upcoming issue of the magazine.
As anyone who’s taken the class knows, Sam and Laurie aren’t big on providing answers. They are big on asking questions, and doing so in such a way that you’re able to see other perspectives, other points of view. With all of the complexities in the Sandusky scandal, it was natural to call on them to be a part of our latest issue, in which we continue to try to make sense of and pull lessons from everything that’s happened in the past nine months.
We’re confident they’ll make the online event a safe place to talk with other Penn Staters who are still hurting for the victims, yet angry at how our community has been portrayed nationally. We’re confident the conversation will make you think, too. We know there’s a lot of anger out there, but we want very much to keep this conversation calm and civil.
So here’s an opportunity for Penn Staters to talk together, among ourselves. Save this website, livestream.com/pennstater, and join us anytime between 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday the 12th, and submit your questions and comments live and in real time to participate. You can also submit your questions or comments here, and we’ll take them to Sam and Laurie next Wednesday.
We’re looking forward to talking with you.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
The first game of the Bill O’Brien era, a 24-14 loss to Ohio, was, in many ways, an odd game.
Players’ names were on the jerseys for the first time ever. The plain white helmets had a small blue ribbon to honor victims of child sexual abuse. Lots of fans wore T-shirts proclaiming “We are STILL Penn State,” and I saw at least one man wearing a shirt that proclaimed, simply, 409. It was the first home opener without Joe Paterno as a coach since 1949, and he wasn’t specifically mentioned or honored during the game. (Unofficially, one of the suites had a cardboard Stand-Up Joe in the window; it appeared to be Franco Harris’ box.)
There was a moment of silence before the game, with special mention of victims of child sexual abuse and “those who have endured suffering and loss.” Students also formed a ring around the stadium before the game to bring awareness to child sexual abuse, and athletes from Penn State’s other sports teams joined the Blue Band, cheerleaders, and national champion Lionettes on the field as the team ran out.
The Nittany Lions played a solid first half, taking a 14-3 lead, but then failed to score in the second half. And the defense gave up 21 second-half points. That’s not the kind of season opener Penn State is used to, of course. Big Ten teams don’t usually lose—at home—to teams from the Mid-American Conference, although by all accounts, the Bobcats are a strong team this season.
So the post-game mood was terse. O’Brien answered several questions with one word—no—and actually, dare I say it, sounded much like Paterno at times, insisting that he needed to watch film before he could answer questions about specific plays or what went wrong, and being unable to provide any updates on injuries. Even quarterback Matt McGloin, normally talkative win or lose, lapsed into clichés.
Not tight end Kyle Carter, who had a solid first game, catching five passes for 74 yards as the “F” tight end in O’Brien’s pro-style, two-tight end offense. (That’s the position that’s more of a wide receiver; the “Y” tight end is more of a blocker.) He wasn’t happy, but he was chatty.
The mood in the locker room was angry, he said. “We felt bad,” he said. “We should have won the game. We were playing for a whole lot of people, and it felt like we let a lot of people down.”
Someone in the scrum of reporters asked whether that wasn’t an awful lot of pressure. Carter dismissed that.
“We want to play for something,” he said. “Since we can’t play for bowl games, we’re playing for a whole university—and even more than that. We welcome that, and I just wish we would have won the game.”
Lori Shontz, senior editor
I got home from Gettysburg on Sunday night and immediately began inundating my husband with stories about how the Union generals exhibited leadership, stories about heroic acts by individual soldiers, stories about how the citizens of Gettysburg coped with the battle. I even threw in a bit about military strategy, much to his shock.
I’m hoping my enthusiasm was catching, because Saturday night, the Alumni Association’s travel and education staff announced next year’s Civil War Study Trip: to Antietam, site of the bloodiest one-day battle in U.S. history. Side trips to Harpers Ferry and South Mountain are expected, too.
The faculty leaders, once again, will be the entertaining and knowledgeable Terry Winschel ’77 and Parker Hills, who are responsible for my Sunday night dinner conversation. The dates are Oct. 16–20, 2013 (that’s the off weekend for the football team), and registration begins on Nov. 1. You can click here for more information as it becomes available.
I’ll be ready. (I just need to check The Penn Stater publishing schedule …) I can’t walk out of a bookstore empty-handed, so Saturday night at the battlefield’s visitor center, I consulted with Nancy Crago ’88, who was consulting a list of her 200 Civil War books before making her purchase. She said my next read should be Battle Cry of Freedom, a one-volume history of the entire Civil War by James McPherson. (It won the Pulitzer Prize.) Her suggestion was enthusiastically seconded by everyone within earshot, so I bought it.
It’s on my (large) reading pile. If anyone has additional recommendations, let me know in the comments.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Everything really hit me Saturday afternoon when I was standing on the Union line, just to the right of the famous “copse.” That’s the umbrella-shaped group of trees that was the focal point for the Confederacy’s final, doomed offensive of the Battle of Gettysburg, Pickett’s charge.
I’d read about it. Listened to a lecture about it. And on the previous two and a half days of the Alumni Association’s Civil War Study Tour, I’d stood on other famous parts of the Gettysburg battlefield. But something about standing on the low stone wall, gazing out at the open field made everything real.
That’s partly a tribute to the National Park Service. The fields have been restored so that my view was the same as the soldiers had on July 3, 1863. We had also stood at the Point of Woods, where Robert E. Lee had watched the battle and apologized to his men (more…)
It’s easy, when you’re learning about the Battle of Gettysburg—or any battle, for that matter—to get caught up in the tactics, the heroism. On Day 2 of the Alumni Association’s Civil War Study Tour, we got an important, moving reminder of war’s human cost.
Guest speaker William Williams, a retired Associated Press newsman turned amateur historian, discussed his book Days of Darkness, which details how the town of Gettysburg coped with the battle—and its aftermath. Gettysburg’s population was 2,300; when the armies pulled out, they left behind between 20,000 and 30,000 wounded. Both armies left doctors behind, too, but the citizens had to help the men who, as Williams said, “were begging for water, food, prayers.”
Williams told incredible stories (many of which he’s found in diaries from the time), including one of a woman cradling a dying teenage boy who thought she looked like his mother that made me tear up. But what honestly stuck with me (more…)
Day One of the Alumni Association’s Civil War Battlefield Study Tour to Gettysburg was, of course, Day One of the battle. Our faculty leaders, Terry Winschel ’77 and Parker Hills, started by giving us the political and military context for the years leading up to Gettysburg. They’re a terrific team.
Parker, the retired general, wears a watch that tells military time, reels off one-liners and what I’m assuming are Southern aphorisms (if they’re not, they should be), and punctuates his PowerPoints with snappy sound effects, everything from typewriter keys to explosions to snippets of Beethoven.
Terry’s picked up a trace of a southern accent after decades in Mississippi as the historian at Vicksburg National Military Park, but his native Pittsburgh still occasionally comes through. He tells stories so smoothly that despite my notoriously bad handwriting, my notes from his sessions are pristine. I can’t remember the last time I stayed in the notebook’s lines. (Not when Parker was speaking.) Terry isn’t wearing a watch, and if he needs a PowerPoint, Parker pushes the buttons.
The combination is fantastic; it’s obvious they’ve known each other since Parker was a mere Army captain. They met at Vicksburg, where Terry was giving tours of the battlefield and Parker was bringing soldiers to learn. Part of the reason the country has national battlefields is (more…)
Have you ever judged someone simply by a book? By something on her shelf, by something he’s recommended you read? It’s not foolproof, of course, but I think it can be a pretty effective way to, well, get a read on a person, too.
So before I arrived in Gettysburg on Wednesday for the Alumni Association’s Penn State Civil War Battlefield Study Tour, I had a mental picture of the two faculty leaders, Terrence Winschel ’77, who just retired as the chief historian at Vicksburg Military Park, and Parker Hills, a retired brigadier general who’s been giving battlefield tours since 2001.
I’ve spent the past week or so tackling the trip’s reading list, which, I admit, I assumed would be a little dry. I love history, but military history? The little I’ve read was difficult; despite hearing my dad and my brother, both Army veterans, talk about that stuff, I just could never picture what was going on. Often, honestly, I tuned out.
Well, all of the books on the reading list for Gettysburg were terrific. I found myself reading paragraphs out loud to my husband over the breakfast table and marking particularly eloquent or interesting passages with a Post-It note. Each of the authors is a true storyteller … and as a writer myself, that’s pretty much my highest compliment.
So I figured anyone who chose those books would be storytellers, too, and boy, was I right. Terry and Parker had my colleagues from the Alumni Association’s travel and education staff cracking up Wednesday night at dinner, and afterward, they told me they didn’t want anyone to feel as though they were slogging through homework as they prepared for the trip. Mission accomplished.
I’ve read five of the six books (I skipped Edwin Coddington’s The Gettysburg Campaign only because it was billed as “for those who have already mastered the basics”), and I’ve loved all five. (more…)