PSU Fan blog: Something Needs to be Done: A Call to Action

Posted by Steve Smith on November 9, 2011 

Now that I’ve said what I needed to say in my previous post, it’s time I said what needs to be done.

One of the problems of the “occupy” movements, especially Wall Street, is that either they have no goals, no endgame in mind, or no manifesto (even the Unabomber had a manifesto). I’m so eager to support them, but I need to know more than “we hate capitalists.”

So in that spirit, something needs to be done at Penn State. Clearly a culture that allowed this monster to prey on young children ON CAMPUS needs to either accept change or have it forced upon it. To paraphrase the old adage, evil will triumph when good men (and women) do nothing. Evil did happen at PSU, and it kept happening. I hope everyone has seen that PSU had the villain give the commencement address to the College of Health and Human Development in 2007. Let me repeat: 2007. Again: 2007. This university knew of this man’s predilections, decided in a rather feeble way to ban him from bringing children into the Lasch Building, but 5 YEARS LATER decided to GIVE HIM THE HONOR of delivering a commencement address. What on Earth was the administration thinking? Nobody saw this and said no. Of all the completely stupid things the administration at Penn State could be accused of (and there’s a long list), this has to be up near the top. Or perhaps that the villain was allowed to host football camps for children at branch campuses until 2009. Again, for emphasis, 2009 for God’s sake! Crisis handling will never be a major at PSU. That’s also more evidence that the culture of secrecy needs to end. Of course, the fact that a janitor witnessed the villain performing oral sex on a boy in a hallway and DIDN’T REPORT it because he feared for his job, would be exhibit A. I wondered about this because I always thought the administration felt the students were the lowest form of life and worthy of their scorn. Apparently anyone who’s not in the administration is a lowlife and treated as such.

Call it The Penn State Way – Forward. Here are the demands that students and community members should deliver to Old Main, the board of trustees, The Second Mile and to Centre County government:

1. Graham Spanier is fired, immediately. This is the easiest thing I’ve ever typed. And as a bonus to PSU, he can be fired not for his pathetic CYA approach to the 2002 incident; he can be fired for the complete and utter mismanagement of this crisis and the besmirching of the PSU name. That would seem to be a basic part of any important leadership position. He can be fired for cause, and not in a way that will add to the millions the university will pay out in civil suits, which I suspect will be filed shortly. Also, no golden parachute or severance package of any kind. If his wife wants to stay, fine. (For her, I mean stay at her job at PSU. She can leave him for putting the university ahead of molestation victims.) In addition, an interim president with human decency needs to be named. I know ESPN was saying Tom Ridge was a possibility, but after watching his performance on SportsCenter, I’m nominating Matt Millen to come in and clean the administrative house. Ridge, who may be a possibility in the future, would just be too much status quo for now. Millen will get things accomplished in a hurry. (I know he failed in Detroit, but he won’t be making any draft picks here, but we just need someone with his perspective on fixing the mess and being the face of Penn Staters, RIGHT NOW.) Millen won’t be tasked with making friends, just weeding out the sycophants and yes men.

2. Board of trustees chairman Steve Garban (I usually refer to him as Steve Garbage, but since he reads this blog and his reading skills and comprehension have clearly taken a hit lately, I’m making sure he recognizes his own name) needs to step down immediately or be fired. Given his statement, mirroring Spanier’s, in support of Curley and Schultz (“I believe them,” he said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) he is the clueless leader of an apparently rudderless board. In addition to his many management failings, he is probably one of the people most responsible for the skyrocketing tuition increases at PSU. The next board should freeze tuition until PSU is NOT the nation’s most expensive public university.

3. The trustees have enabled this entire culture of money and secrecy and mixed it with power, making a narcotic on which the universities leaders are hopelessly addicted. The trustees need to resign – all of them – and a special election needs to be held at the soonest possible date. Incumbents can run again, but they will have to face an enraged electorate. Obviously, the governor’s picks are out of our hands, but the rest took 4 whole days to decide they were going to appoint a special committee to investigate the scandal. This should have taken about 30 seconds on FRIDAY, probably another couple of hours Saturday to select the members and been announced then. It would seem to be obvious to board watchers that Spanier and Garbage (oops) have been dominating this board to an unseemly degree. This is a time for thoughtful, but QUICK, action. This has been dragged out far too long.

4. Lastly, the status of Joe Paterno and Mike McQueary should be decided before Saturday. They cannot be allowed to twist in the wind any longer. Spanier has been hiding out all week and called the cops to help get him out of Old Main on Tuesday night. (Why weren’t the police offended by his pathetic leadership thus far? They should’ve told him to face the music like the spineless coward he is.) JoePa deserves better than this from the university. He was completely screwed on Tuesday, just completely and utterly hung out to dry, forced to be the face of the scandal because no one else will (even the villain was smart enough not to appear in a PSU track suit again). I hope everyone was paying attention to Tuesday’s timeline of events. G$pan cancels presser, JoePa says he’s willing to face the music. G$pan says no, and then suddenly SOMEONE tells the NY Times that PSU is working to manage JoePa’s exit, in a matter of weeks or even days. Shortly after that, ScottPa says Joe wanted to talk, and starts “planning” a JoePa presser at some off-campus site. Then Joe speaks to the media in calm, reasoned tones saying that he’d like to answer questions, but he wasn’t allowed to, but he will soon. All of a sudden, he’s not fired and the board announced the formation of the panel later in the evening. To translate: Joe probably was going to apologize for his decision making at the usual Tuesday presser and try to explain his actions. G$pan and Garbage (oops, again) and the lawyers went ballistic, realizing that Joe may inadvertently hurt their legal case (here’s a hint for you PSU lawyers: you’re going to pay through the nose so accept it because PSU really, really screwed up), so they canceled. JoePa, seeing that he was about to be made the fall guy for G$pan and Garbage (I’m so angry I did that again!), decided he might as well put his finger on the nuke button and hold his own presser. The old boys club on the board realized they can’t control what he says if he quits on his own and talks to the media, and they can’t fire him or even appear to fire him, so they backed down. But that still leaves the question of what to do about JoePa and Red. At this juncture, neither of them is facing charges, and likely will not. Morally, their decisions will be questioned for all time. JoePa should have known better. And Mike took his concerns to the most powerful man on campus. If JoePa can’t solve the problem, who could? Do not get me wrong, and to address previous commenters, I am not about to give Red a free pass. But let me state this: More important individuals in more important crises or momentous events have frozen when challenged by events. Mike did as well. I don’t know him, but from all reports he’s a stand-up guy. I’m sure that he wishes he saved that boy and beat the fecal matter out of the villain. But he didn’t. And he will regret it for the rest of his life. I would personally give Mike the option of sitting out Saturday’s game or coaching upstairs (it’s high time JayPa sees things up close anyway). There are still a lot of raw, brutal feelings out there, and I’d hate for him to be distracted by venom pouring from behind the bench. I have a feeling that Mike would probably reject that and coach on the field anyway, because he knows he let people down and is willing to accept some tough treatment. As far as JoePa, his usually astute moral compass failed him and, most importantly, the victims, in a big way. This was an egregiously bad decision. This wasn’t kicking to Breaston in 2005, this was children’s lives, children’s well-being, their very safety itself. For a man who has devoted his life to this university, he tarnished his legacy forever. In time, he will be forgiven by most. That’s what 62 years of devoted service will do. Love him or hate him, and there are many haters (even before this scandal), he has been right far more often than he’s been wrong. JoePa needs to be told that this is indeed the end. His punishment should be a 1-game suspension. Sure, it’s meaningless, you may say. I disagree. This would be his final home game, the last hurrah, the final chance to enjoy the love, to bask in the cheers, echoing throughout the house that he built. One last chance to enjoy the adulation of the masses. And that’s precisely why. There has to be some punishment for him. He had the chance to do the right thing, he had all the power to do so, and he put it in Curley’s hands. And then he didn’t insist on action when he could’ve pressed the issue. I, as much as anyone, has always dreaded the thought of Joe’s last game, but I’ve always wanted to be there, to thank and revere a man who, prior to this week, was the image of Penn State, the conscience of the game and, fundamentally, a good man. If you can picture the end of “Saving Private Ryan” where the aged James Ryan asks his wife if he’s led a good life, imagine you were the wife and JoePa asked you that question. What would you answer? Even in light of recent events, JoePa’s done miles more good than many, many people. One major transgression is enough to outrage, of course. It will be unforgettable for most, unforgivable to some, but for an era spanning six decades he’s been our leader. My answer is yes, he’s a good man, but he needs to sit this one out. One fall Saturday, a year or two from now, he’ll be back on the field once more. Set a date right now. Let’s call it Oct. 27, 2012, vs. OSU, or Oct. 12, 2013, vs. Michigan. On that day, he’ll get the chance that he’s being denied vs. Nebraska. On that day, higher power willing, he will lead the team through the tunnel one final time, and, luck willing, will be the last person to ring the victory bell that day. Everyone knows that JoePa is afraid of dying once he leaves the game. I’m hopeful that this opportunity will give him every reason to work at his health and do his best to ensure that he’s still around. Of course, it’s not up to him, but I’m hopeful he’ll be there.

5. Centre County law enforcement has always been spotty and loaded with favoritism and back-alley deals. The late Ray Gricar gave the villain a free pass on the 1998 allegations when police HEARD the villain admit to showering with little boys. Gricar is not around to defend himself, unfortunately. However, there seems to be a reasonably intelligent district attorney in place in Stacy Parks Miller. She needs to form a community advisory board on issues relating to the abuse of children. Not many people, mind you, I don’t want them paralyzed by having too many voices. Three to five people ought to do it. I think Gricar, had he consulted such a board of real people, would’ve filed charges in 1998 and this incident would’ve never reached the conflagration status it now enjoys. In the interests of constitutional protection, names can be redacted from reports. But let real human beings into the process before ONE MAN decides to give a molester a free pass because he happens to be an icon in the community.

6. The Gary Schultz Child Care Center should be renamed as soon as possible. My preference is that is that the university, under its new leadership, devotes itself to finding the little boy molested in the 2002 Lasch incident. After leaving no stone unturned and succeeding in this endeavor, the center should be named for that boy.

7. The Second Mile board needs to be replaced immediately. It was as asleep at the wheel every bit as much as the PSU leadership. This may be the biggest shame of the whole rotten incident. Given the economic mismanagement at the national and state level, the number of at-risk youth is only going to increase. The Second Mile, if it survives what promises to be numerous lawsuit and a very trying next few months, will be needed more than ever. I truly hope it can clean up its mess and rededicate itself to its mission.

I hope this helps add some structure to the protests/rallies. If you have an endgame in mind, that’ll also put the forces of good (you the students and the community at large), in a better position than the men of evil leading the PSU administration, because they have no idea where this ends. Thanks for reading and commenting, good and bad.

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