Jerry Sandusky Scandal

Former Faculty Senate leaders blast Freeh: Statement critical of investigation could reach NCAA

Penn State faculty leaders say there is more to the university than an overpowering football culture, and that is one of several messages some hope to send to the NCAA.

But whether the university’s Faculty Senate has that authority or would overstep its boundaries has to be figured out before anything is done.

On Tuesday, the Faculty Senate heard a presentation with that message from psychology professor Keith Nelson. He’s advocating sending a statement to the NCAA for its sanctions he said were unfairly based on the findings of the Freeh report.

Nelson said the sanctions will hurt student-athletes and have harmed the university’s reputation.

The discussion apparently will carry over to the next Faculty Senate meeting Oct. 16. The Faculty Senate moved to possibly vote on that issue.

Faculty Senate Chairman Larry Backer said he will have to check to see if the faculty have that authority. He said they can make a public statement, but he’s not sure they are allowed to send messages to entities outside the university.

A group of 30 former chairmen of the Faculty Senate drafted a similar statement that was presented at the meeting. The statement goes on to criticize the Freeh report and chastise the NCAA for harming Penn State’s reputation.

The two-page statement criticized the Freeh report, saying it “fails badly.” The former leaders said that, as scientists and scholars, they can say the Freeh report “fails on its own merit as the indictment of the university that some have taken it to be.”

“The NCAA has used its assertion of collective guilt to justify its collective punishment of the entire university community, almost all of whom had absolutely no involvement in or knowledge of the underlying crimes or the administration’s allegedly insufficient response,” the statement reads.

Kim Steiner, a professor in the College of Agricultural Sciences, was a coauthor of the statement from the former senate leaders. He said the NCAA should be ashamed of the sanctions.

“We’re not trying to change anything that’s happened,” he said. “We’re just trying to say what we believe is the truth on behalf of others who believe much the same way.”

Among the current and former Penn State faculty members who signed the statement are John Nichols, a professor emeritus who also served on the search committee that recommended head football coach Bill O’Brien; George Franz, a professor emeritus of American history; Jean Landa Pytel, a professor of engineering science; Robert Secor, a professor emeritus of English; and William Taylor, professor emeritus of biochemistry and molecular biology.

The statement says the former leaders are not judging whether anyone involved is guilty and will wait for the court process to make the determination. Former administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz are charged with lying to the grand jury investigating Jerry Sandusky and are scheduled for trial in January.

Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT