Andrea Boyles, CEO of the Centre County Youth Service Bureau, called the Freeh report’s findings “disgusting.”
Don Hahn, State College Borough Council president, said the report “illustrates a tragedy.”
They were among the community leaders responding to the 267-page report released Thursday. Some found its conclusions devastating, and another part of the Jerry Sandusky scandal from which area residents must heal.
Many other leaders didn’t want to comment on the report until they are able to further read and study it.
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State Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, said Thursday he knew very little, only after a briefing from his staff.
“I think we all need to review it for what it is and let the judicial system go through it’s process” and address any future concerns, he said. “I’m not even sure where it goes from this point.”
Roger Williams, head of the Penn State Alumni Association, said “time will tell” what impact the report will have on alumni who are devoted Joe Paterno fans.
The report says the late university football coach knew of the 1998 investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse involving Sandusky.
“My sense is that everyone is trying to process this,” Williams said.
Dale Hoffman, head of the Centre County chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association, said he needed more time before commenting on the report.
“I think I need to read the report and study it for a little while,” he said.
State College Borough Manager Tom Fountaine said the report has been of “great interest and concern” in the community and that, since he has not had the time to study the report, he did not want to comment on any specifics.
“The release provides an opportunity to take another look at what has happened over the last seven or eight months and do some things in the community to address that,” he said.
Generally speaking, he said he doesn’t think the report will have an impact on the borough’s relationship with Penn State.
“I think we continue to have a very good and strong relationship with Penn State University,” he said. “I know the university is committed strongly to addressing issues that have come up in recent months.”
Hahn said the report should have an impact on the wider community.
“The type of loyalty to close relationships among co-workers which, ordinarily, I would consider a good thing, turned out to be the very undoing of the people involved,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s all too common that people place higher loyalty to those that they know than to faceless victims to whom they actually owe a duty.”
Centre County Commissioner Michael Pipe said there was a sense that, after the 45 guilty verdicts for Sandusky last month, the community could begin healing.
“With this report coming out, it’s not even close,” he said. “We still have so much more that has to be done about this. This really went to top levels of the university. It really can’t get much worse.”
As a Penn State graduate, Pipe said it pains him to hear people say the university “let this happen.”
“Penn State is not just four individuals,” he said. “I had great professors, great mentors — people who challenged me, made me into the person I am today. There are people with Penn State who had nothing to do with this. I feel for them.”
Larry Backer, a Penn State law professor and the chairman of the University Faculty Senate, said the news is “a tragedy of much larger proportion” than he had thought before.
“I think the institutional reputation has survived,” he said. “What has been tarnished significantly are the personal reputations of individuals that were held in high esteem.”
He called the Freeh report’s conclusions “a great growing and learning experience.”
“Every institution goes through tragedy,” he said. “The more we can stick together and learn from it, we can move past it.”
Anne Ard, executive director of the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, said she wasn’t too surprised that the report blamed Penn State’s leaders for failure to do more to stop Sandusky. She expected that, but not the extent of the revelations, the detailed emails exposing a cover-up.
“It was painful,” she said. “To know that people had the opportunity to do something different, that’s what’s hard. That’s what’s very hard.”
Ard said she was glad to see other details, including specific examples of wrongdoing and recommendations for reforms.
“You can’t begin to repair what’s broken until you’re clear what’s actually broken, and I think that’s what the Freeh Group has done,” Ard said.
Some people have called for the resignation of the entire university board of trustees since the case broke last fall. The Freeh report says the board did not provide enough oversight to university officials.
“I think the governor should step in and clear the board out,” said Dan Meckes, of Tyrone, a Penn State alumnus who graduated in 1954.
After the report’s release, some are still calling for the trustees to step down, including Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, said leader Maribeth Schmidt.
“I think what we were satisfied to see was the board was really called out for its inaction and lack of oversight,” Schmidt said. “That’s been our strongest criticism. If they hadn’t been asleep at the wheel for the last 10 or 15 years, we’d be in a different place today. There is no reason they shouldn’t be held accountable.”
Schmidt said she didn’t think the report found many surprises.
“I’ve always said we want Penn State to be a safe place for children,” Schmidt said. “I’m glad the report gives us guidelines to make sure nothing like this happens again.”
So is Boyles at Youth Service Bureau. She said although “there’s a lot of bad adult behavior in the report,” it can inspire people to take action, such as participating in the “Stewards for Children” program for teaching adults to recognize and report child sexual abuse. The YSB is among the local nonprofits sponsoring workshops recently introduced to the area.
“We have an opportunity to truly become the safest place in the world to raise a child,” Boyles said. “We have that opportunity. We’ve had to face this awful thing, and we can do a whole lot better.”