The clock is ticking on the leadership of the Penn State board of trustees to prepare itself to defend the university 4 1/2 years after it first failed to do so. A Philadelphia judge has ordered the unsealing of records in just a few weeks, related to Penn State’s settlements with Jerry Sandusky’s accusers, siding with media outlets that sought their release.
The past 4 1/2 years have been a story of missed communication opportunities, continued missteps and an all-too-predictable pattern of failure. University officials had time back in 2011 to prepare for and address a Harrisburg-driven media crisis and they have time today to prepare for another possible media onslaught. When a crisis emerges, “no comment” or delayed responses to media don’t make a problem go away. In fact, it makes it worse, giving the media the opportunity to speak for you.
As of now there is no way to tell what portions of the whole record in the case will be revealed to the news media. If just snippets are cherry-picked and released, then it could result in unfair damage to PSU. Penn State needs to prepare for that so good people and their families don’t get swept up in yet another tidal wave of irrational emotions and destructive speech.
Good leaders ask tough questions, seek the truth, take a stand and challenge others to do the same. The board owes it to the vast Penn State community to stand up for the university and push back.
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Wendy Silverwood, West Chester