Does what former Penn State President Graham Spanier did or didn’t do in response to the Jerry Sandusky allegations count as moral turpitude or grave misconduct?
Those are two of the limited number of reasons the university can dismiss a tenured member of faculty.
President Rodney Erickson said in an interview Tuesday with the Centre Daily Times that Spanier had a contract with a confidentiality clause that applied both while he was president and after.
“Certainly, there are a lot of questions at this point about Dr. Spanier’s future service with the university,” Erickson said. “He remains, at this point, a tenured professor. The employment relationship is different than it is in a contract or at-will situation.”
Erickson declined to say whether he personally feels Spanier should no longer be on the faculty.
“I don’t think I should comment on that here,” Erickson said. “That’s a matter that will be subject to continuing discussion and dialogue in the weeks ahead.”
He said the university has to take a “wait-and-see attitude.”
“Some of it may depend on what happens outside the university,” Erickson said. “Within the university, there’s a particular policy and setup of processes and rules that govern these things.”
Trustees terminated Spanier as president in November after the charges against Jerry Sandusky were made public. They pointed to a lack of leadership.
The report from Louis Freeh into the Sandusky scandal and the university’s response to it found that Spanier was part of an effort by four of the university’s highest-ranking leaders to cover up allegations against Sandusky from 1998 through 2001.
While being relieved from his administrative role, Spanier continues to be a tenured member of faculty in the College of Health and Human Development.
He is currently on sabbatical and has a national security job for the federal government.
Spanier’s attorneys have said that as president he was never told of child sex abuse by Jerry Sandusky and that the Freeh report is “not supported by the facts.”
According to the university’s human resources policy, a tenured faculty member can be removed for lack of competence, excessive absenteeism, moral turpitude or grave misconduct.
If an issue isn’t resolved, there is a multistep process, including appointment of a five member committee — two members picked by the administration and three by the university’s Faculty Senate — that then evaluates the charges of misconduct, holds a hearing and issues recommendations to the university president.
Revoking faculty tenure is uncommon. One case at Penn State happened in 2004 when the committee on tenure recommended terminating a professor for “adequate cause based on grave misconduct.”
Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @AnneDanahy