Memo to the Penn State trustees and their new high-powered public relations firm: Remember, there’s a town here.
Yes, it’s adjacent to the sprawling campus, and it’s home to thousands of students, many living in high rises.
A few of trustees live here, so they would know that large groups of students celebrating or reacting to something could get out of control.
Last week, as the trustees met in secret, staggered by the child abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky and the fallout at the university, they quietly hired Ketchum, and the multinational public relations firm helped them plan last Wednesday night’s news conference.
Remember that one? The one at which the board fired the football coach and university president abruptly on live television.
Given the student support for coach Joe Paterno, so evident earlier in the week, and the emotional week unfolding, you’d think the trustees would realize they should alert local law enforcement if they’re planning a major announcement that would further rattle students.
Like the firing of Paterno, which this board did by phone.
Advance warning? Not by these trustees or their new-found public relations helpers.
State College police, who plan well ahead with university police to manage major events, were given about an hour’s notice, just like the public.
That wasn’t enough to be fully ready for what was to come, as 4,000 to 5,000 students flooded the downtown streets. There was property and vehicle damage, minor injuries and a national black eye for Penn State students reacting to stunning events.
The rioting caused $20,000 in damage, not including staff overtime.
That bill should be sent to the trustees, not charged to State College taxpayers.
Next time, the trustees and their public relations firm should be mindful of the town. Reminder: It supports the university.