The Scene at Saturday’s Rally for Resignations
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