Penn State

'Deeply ashamed,' Penn State board of trustees fault selves for not asking more questions but won’t step down

SCRANTON — Penn State’s trustees pledged to take full responsibility for the child sex abuse scandal that has smeared the university’s reputation, saying Thursday that the board and administration failed.

“At the moment of truth, the people who were in a position to protect children and confront a predator, including people at the highest levels of responsibility at the university, specifically Graham Spanier, Joe Paterno, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, did not put the welfare of children first,” said Ken Frazier, who led the trustees task force.

His comments came during a press conference that he, Chairwoman Karen Peetz and President Rodney Erickson held Thursday afternoon after board members had time to review the Freeh report, which details the failures of former administrators and the board to take the action that could have stopped Jerry Sandusky’s ongoing child sexual abuse. During the news conference, Peetz said there are no plans for any of the trustees to step down.

Frazier said the failure was at the administrative and board level. And on a personal level, he said, “our hearts remain heavy and we are deeply ashamed.”

The report from Louis Freeh cast blame for the Sandusky scandal on Spanier, administrators Curley and Schultz — who face criminal charges of perjury and failure to report abuse — and the late coach Paterno.

“Each of the individuals have let us down significantly,” Peetz said.

On the question of whether the university will honor Paterno, Peetz said it is a “sensitive topic” and one that will have to continue to be discussed with the entire community.

She said 61 years of service to the community “is now marred. And we have to step back and say, what does that mean.”

A guard was stationed at the Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium on Thursday night.

Frazier said the Freeh report found “inexcusable failures” on the part of Paterno and other leaders, but Paterno had also done tremendous good for the community.

“You have to measure every human by the good they’ve done, the bad they’ve done,” Frazier said.

Peetz said the board as a whole doesn’t plan to step down, but when asked about former Chairman Steve Garban and Vice Chairman John Surma, who were in those positions when the scandal unfolded, Peetz said the report includes some information about individuals, but the board hasn’t had a chance to read the entire the report.

She said the report is new and the board will “be digesting further below the four people who were already named, who knew what.”

“In hindsight — and this is the part that probably we’re most disturbed about or sorry about — is that we did not pay enough attention,” she said.

She said the report wasn’t detailed, “but we should have had our antenna up.”

But, Peetz said, in November when the attorney general’s report came out Spanier was “called on the carpet.”

Frazier said what the board can be blamed for, in hindsight, is not asking more questions after getting the first set of answers from Spanier.

Spanier is still employed as a tenured faculty member at Penn State. But Mike McQueary, whose contract expired at the end of June, is no longer, Erickson said. McQueary, who walked in on Sandusky naked with a boy in a shower in 2001, has filed a notice of a whistleblower suit, and has said he wants his job back.

Erickson said it became clear to him that he needed to reconsider the community’s “leadership culture.” He has put together a team to translate Freeh’s recommendations into reality. His administration is working more collaboratively and constructively with the board.

With the Freeh report, he said, they can begin “addressing the most painful chapter in the university’s history.”

The board meets today on the Worthington Scranton campus. Among the items that will be under consideration is reducing how many years board members can serve from 15 to 12, and adding a public comment period to the meetings.

Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @AnneDanahy.