A new Penn State Alumni Association survey suggests graduates of the university are moving past the Jerry Sandusky scandal, even as news reports continue to thrust the situation back into the mainstream.
We think this is a positive trend, and we hope a forward-looking spirit permeates the upcoming elections for alumni seats on the university’s board of trustees.
Even as national media were focusing again on Dottie Sandusky, wife of the convicted former Penn State coach, and Mike McQueary, whose testimony was critical in Sandusky’s 2012 child sex-abuse trial, the alumni association was releasing data that show growing interest in topics unrelated to the scandal.
The university has a new president on the way, a new football coach launching spring drills, more high school students than ever applying to become new Penn State students in the fall.
And graduates said Penn State is on the right track.
The alumni association surveyed members in December, and the organization’s overview of the results notes that respondents said the university’s top priorities should be “academics, building the university’s reputation and affordability.”
The alumni did again urge Penn State to find a way to honor the late Joe Paterno for his service to the school.
Support for public recognition of Paterno was higher in this survey (81 percent) than in one done a year earlier (75 percent), but not as high as in May 2012 (87 percent).
As we’ve said, we would support revisiting the honoring of Paterno once lawsuits and legal battles stemming from the Sandusky matter have run their course, depending on Paterno’s connection to the outcomes.
But it is clear that alumni surveyed are less focused on the Sandusky scandal than they have been in prior reports.
Consider these shifts from December 2012 to December 2013:
• The percentage representing those closely following the implementation of the Freeh report recommendations dropped from 56 to 35, and the percent following slightly or not at all rose from 19 to 36 percent.
• The same trend is seen with the legal proceedings for former Penn State administrators Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz and Tim Curley. The percent following closely fell (55 to 40 percent); the percent following slightly increased (18 to 31 percent).
• As for the various lawsuits connected with Penn State’s NCAA sanctions, the same happened: percent following closely dropped (67 to 44), percent following slightly rose (12 to 27 percent).
We suspect the interest in those areas will tick back up when court activity builds.
But we hope alumni maintain their focus on key areas such as costs and academics, and we hope those priorities drive decisions in the voting for alumni trustees.