March for Truth protest directs ire at Penn State board of trustees

mcarroll@centredaily.comSeptember 20, 2013 

— A speaker addressing a group of protesters outside The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel on Friday wondered if the board of trustees gathered inside could hear the chants for reform.

If the trustees couldn’t, some certainly got an earful when leaving their meeting Friday afternoon.

Penn State officials were showered with choruses of jeers from the crowd gathered for a “March for Truth” protest.

The event, which featured speakers Franco Harris and former lieutenant governor and longtime state Sen. Bob Jubelirer, was aimed at sending a stern message to the board; that the Penn State community does not believe they have heard the truth about the failures of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and will not move forward.

Harris said before the rally that he is still searching for answers about why the board members handled the aftermath of the scandal as they did, and renewed his call for all members who were on the panel at the time to step down.

“There is nothing they can really do,” Harris said. “These are the people who caused all the destruction. There is nothing they can do but leave.”

The rally drew a crowd of mostly alums, many armed with signs and T-shirts supporting Joe Paterno and denouncing the trustees.

Some, headed to Penn State’s football game, left the hotel parking lot in the RVs they will tailgate in Saturday. One man, a 1980 graduate, said he drove from Delaware just to attend the rally and was driving back after.

Many said they were upset by the way Paterno was treated by the university. Harris, to cheers from the crowd, accused the board of trying to bury Paterno’s legacy.

"In last two years, even I learned so much about Joe (Paterno),” Harris said. “He loved Penn State.”

Trustee Ted Brown, addressing the crowd after the trustees meeting concluded, said he believes the board will ultimately honor Paterno’s legacy, but “not yet.”

“I can’t tell you when the statue is coming back,” Brown said. “But I can tell you we will honor him.”

Brown did not elaborate further when asked additional questions.

Jubelirer also spoke, urging the board to be more transparent and to follow the state’s sunshine law.

Jubelirer attacked the trustees for what he and others called the intimidation of a student.

They were referring to Peter Khoury, a student trustee who withdrew as a plaintiff in the Paterno family’s lawsuit against the NCAA, saying he was threatened with being removed from the group that’s searching for the next university president if he didn’t.

“Everybody has the right to speak,” Jubelirer said. “The student had his First Amendment rights taken away from him.”

Later in the event, several student leaders ended up pitted against a couple of protesters. The students approached Harris after the meeting to explain why they don’t think demonstrations are helpful.

The students said the actions made the student population look bad, and Harris said his group is just after the truth about the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

“We’re afraid these sort of actions will reflect negatively on the students,” said Katelyn Mullen, the president of the University Park Undergraduate Association.

One marcher asked the student leaders if they were “coerced” by the board to come outside. Mullen defended her group members and said it was their decision and no one else’s.

“We don’t want to be associated with these actions because we’re the ones held responsible,” said Mullen, who suggested the marchers take their message to the board members.

The marchers didn’t believe the student leaders were representing the consensus of the student body, but Mullen insisted that students are tired of the continued debate.

Eileen Morgan, one of the protest organizers, disagreed.

“What the Penn State board has done to this school is reflecting negatively on all of us,” Morgan said. “It’s not you, so stop making you to be the focus.”

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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