An opinion piece written by Penn State President Eric Barron has provoked a response among a section of the board of trustees.
Barron’s statement, published by the Centre Daily Times on Friday, addressed the release of documents from former FBI director Louis Freeh’s investigation, which was commissioned by the board of trustees as an independent review of the situation surrounding retired assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s child sex abuse crimes.
Sandusky was convicted in June 2012 of offenses against multiple boys over the course of years.
Three ex-Penn State administrators, Graham Spanier, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, have also been charged with perjury and related crimes in Dauphin County. All are awaiting trial, but no date has been set.
Freeh’s report, including a condemnation of the univerity’s football “culture,” was released in July 2012 and became the basis for the NCAA’s subsequent sanctions against the university, including a $60 million fine, four-year postseason ban, five years’ probation, slashed scholarships and stripping of football victories between 1998 and 2011.
In July, trustee Al Lord asked the board to reopen the report, citing criticism of the findings, and “continue the investigation.” In October, the board voted down that request. But in November, Barron agreed to review the report himself.
Later, the nine alumni-elected trustees asked to have access to the documents for their own review. Board Chairman Keith Masser agreed but insisted upon restrictions, including requiring they all sign confidentiality agreements.
Barron’s statement Friday reiterated those requirements and their reasons.
“In this regard, I want Penn State employees to know the university will protect individual anonymity of the people inverviewed by the Freeh team ‘to the maximum extent possible’ under the law,” he wrote, saying that he would also sign a “strict confidentiality agreement” and would ask attorneys to withhold information that could identify sources.
“ ... Our employees and others were promised confidentiality in return for their willingness to be interviewed,” Barron wrote. He noted the possibility of public heckling and “vicious attacks on social media” and the prospect of a negative impact on Penn State because of such retaliation.
However, the agreement that was signed with Freeh’s law firm shortly after Sandusky’s arrest in November 2011 does stipulate that confidentiality had its limits. The agreement stipulated that authorities could be notified of “any discovered evidence of criminality” or the identities of any victims of sexual crimes.
Three of the alumni elected trustees, Lord, Bill Oldsey and Anthony Lubrano, are responding with their own opinion piece, which will be published Thursday in the Centre Daily Times.
“It is understandable that Dr. Barron believes individual confidentiality is important. We too are sensitive to the subject, but believe that getting to the complete truth outweighs the importance of individual confidentiality,” they wrote. “For anyone to conduct a credible, in-depth review of Mr. Freeh’s findings, unfettered and uncensored access to all the materials Freeh used is necessary...Any action taken to redact or change information is an act that compromises transparency.”