The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

January 11, 2012

Alumni lash out at PSU president

PITTSBURGH — Penn State University President Rodney Erickson was grilled Wednesday by alumni unhappy about how the school handled a child sex abuse scandal, the firing of longtime football coach Joe Paterno and a lack of transparency over the case.

Erickson is attempting to repair the school’s image with alumni, faculty, staff and students more than two months since former football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s arrest brought controversy, criticism and contemplation to the school.

Some alumni have criticized the uni­versity’s failure to conduct a complete investigation before firing Paterno and ousting Erickson’s predecessor, Graham Spanier, while decrying the leadership as secretive and slow to act.

Erickson, who was greeted by polite applause, told the crowd at the start of Wednesday night’s 11/2-hour meeting in Pittsburgh that openness and communication are his guiding principles.

He said critics have accused the school of having problems in those areas recently and the school “will do better in the future.”

When he said he won’t allow the scandal to define the university nor “our outstanding football program,” the audience of about 600 people burst into applause.

But the first questioner called the treatment of Paterno “unconscionable,” drawing some applause and a few boos.

“We will certainly want to honor Joe as the future unfolds,” Erickson replied.

And there was passionate and prolonged applause for another person’s suggestion that the board of trustees step down.

“I think the board will have to make those decisions,” Erickson replied to some groans from the crowd.

Erickson, who said an investigation into what the trustees knew and when is ongoing, declined to answer several questions, such as why the school fired Paterno when the coach had already announced that he would retire at the end of the season.

Asked for how many defendants Penn State is paying legal fees, Erickson said the school will start posting details of what the crisis has cost in legal and other fees next week.

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