The effectiveness of a message depends not only on its content, but also on the credibility of the person who delivers it. It is difficult to see how Rodney Erickson can preside credibly at Penn State’s graduation exercises this year. The Penn State community holds him in such contempt that it booed him on his own football field at halftime last year.
Erickson lost the Penn State community’s trust and respect when he called the trustees’ irresponsible rush to judgment on Nov. 9, 2011 “courageous.” He then removed the Paterno statue and acquiesced to the now scandal-ridden NCAA’s illegitimate sanctions, on the basis of the Freeh Group’s defective and incomplete work. There is also the still-open issue as to whether Erickson or NCAA spokesman Ed Ray told the truth as to whether the NCAA threatened Penn State with the football death penalty.
I do not recommend that anybody disrupt Penn State’s commencement by booing Erickson if he does speak, and the same goes for any trustee. This would bring the disrupters down to the level of the students who rioted in 2011 and infringe on the right of others to listen. Students, parents and alumni can express their distaste in a quiet, dignified and nondisruptive manner by withholding applause. The best way to make commencement enjoyable for everybody, however, would be to have a noncontroversial figure such as one of Penn State’s retired presidents, Joab Thomas or Bryce Jordan, preside.
William A. Levinson