The Scene at Saturday’s Rally for Resignations

September 15, 2012 at 12:39 pm 12 comments

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

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100s of Readers, and 24 (or so) Hours, for “Catch-22” Trustees Hear from Gene Marsh

12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Anonymous  |  September 15, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Thank you for covering this. Hope we see it in the magazine, too.
    I wonder if Peetz will answer any questions about this in her interview …

  • 2. Susan Gifford  |  September 16, 2012 at 8:56 am

    To TG McGann
    While I concur with some of your statements above, I must correct a blatant misstatement. It is true that Franco, along with Rocky Blier, Steeler running back with Franco, was hired by the casino at the Meadows Racetrack near Washington, PA, to publicize the casino, Franco was unceremoniously “let go” because of his unstinting support for Coach Paterno.
    Please note that even Louis Freeh (the investigative god) had a connection to Second Mile – becaue of Freeh’s position at MBNA. A lot of fine people (although I personally don’t include Freeh in my definition of “fine people”) had connections with the Second Mile. No one saw through Sanduskly to the sociopath beneath – that is one of my main criticisms of the Freeh Report – they expected four men to see what thousands could not. Yet I believe you are making the same error – Franco can’t talk about the situation because of a loose association with Second Mile?
    Also, while I am undecided about Dr. Erickson’s actions since becomming President, and his role (if any) while provost in this mess, I object to name calling without foundation, especially names with sexual innuendos that Penn Staters should be sensitive to.

  • 3. Ellen Gerhart  |  September 16, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Current students and alumni should all be appalled that the Board of Trustees has decided to play dead instead of defending Penn State. By rolling over and refusing to challenge statements in the Freeh report and by allowing the NCAA to state that we need to reassess the impact our football culture has on our excellent academic record, the Board has opened floodgates of negativity towards anyone associated with Penn State. They have not stood up for the university. Why should they be supported?

  • 4. Tina Hay  |  September 16, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Hi all — I’ve deleted TD McGann’s two initial posts. I know that that messes up the conversational thread, and I’m sorry for that. But we can’t allow over-the-line personal attacks on our blog. We also can’t condone the anti-gay, potentially discriminatory comments found on TD’s website, which he linked to. TD, if you want to re-state your comments and/or post new ones, we’re happy to have them; just don’t include a link to your website and please keep the comments civil. Thanks.

  • 5. David Mullaly  |  September 16, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Thank you for covering the rally on Saturday. I thought your coverage was quite fair, and it is gratifying to know that an event openly critical of the current leadership at Penn State remains worthy of a news report. Just when I start thinking that my alma mater is going to hell in a hand basket, somebody does something with class and gives me some renewed hope.

    Those of us who organized the rally are as concerned about the best interests of this great University as anyone on the U.P. campus. May there be better days ahead for all.

  • 6. Marie Cornelius  |  September 17, 2012 at 9:13 am

    Excellent synopsis of the rally. Please publish this in the next Penn Stater. The issues are so critically important to every PENN STATER.

  • 7. Wendy Silverwood  |  September 18, 2012 at 12:06 am

    Thank you Lori.

    I simply want to say that in all of Penn State’s history, has ANY Board of Trustees & President EVER caused such rancor among the Alumni, dumped on the Students, insulted the Faculty & Staff and done so much damage to the University Brand?

    If this isn’t a heads up about the quality of Leadership, I don’t know what is.

  • 8. TD McGann  |  September 18, 2012 at 12:46 am

    Were it not for the complicit media to stamp out every spark of credible news on the scandal there would be a firestorm on the scale of Dresden, Hamburg, and Tokyo.

  • 9. Susan Gifford  |  September 18, 2012 at 11:09 am

    First, I would like to thank Tina Hay for taking down the post from TD McGann that I was replying to. My comments don’t make much sense now, but better that than Mr. (Ms?) McGann’s post, which was offensive and full of sexual innuendo, and half-and-full untruths.
    Tina also removed his second post (in reply to me) because it contained a link to his website. I get that, too, after looking at the website. But for all readers of these posts (whether you’ve seen his second post or not) – I make the following statement. In his second (removed) post he calls me a godsend, and welcomes my help. I was not, and am not helping him. I read a lot of the pro- and anti- JoePa and PSU sites online, and found the information about MBNA on another “pro site”. Mr. McGann, to be a knowledgable critic, you should do the same type of searchng and reading. I completely disassociate myself from Mr. McGann, and resent that he tried to pull me into his web of conspiracy, innuendo, and half-truths

  • 10. TD McGann  |  September 18, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Are you or are you not going to take my posts down?

    To say you’ll do something than don’t reflects poorly on your magazine and on the character of its staff.

    Anyhow, thanks for dispelling my faint lingering doubts about your ulterior motives for having sponsored such an ill-publicized and poorly-attended rally.

    Your only failure was not having Graham Spanier, Rodney Erickson, and Gov. Tom Corbett speak. Perhaps you’ll do so at a future rally!

  • 11. David Mullaly  |  September 18, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    TD: I think you’re confused. The posts that you’re responding to have been written by different people with different perspectives and interests. I was the rally organizer, and if you weren’t happy with the rally publicity and turnout, perhaps you could try your hand at it? A few guys did this with virtually no money, and we thought the result was pretty good. It was a first step.

    Maybe you can figure out who you want to bash and why and go from there?

  • 12. TD McGann  |  September 19, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    You are sending me a mixed message–you suggest I should lend a hand but say my intent is to bash.
    Anyhow, if you should want to get rid of the BOT for misscariage of justice in the Second Mile Charity/Penn State scandal and its cover-up, you must convene a grand jury independent of Linda Kelly. First, you must know your rights. See http://fija.org/

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