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about 3 years ago
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Open Letter to President Spanier

Felix Weigel is a sophomore majoring in Political Science.

Dear Dr. Spanier,

As you know, I have been one of the few students privileged enough to be selected as a member of the Presidential Leadership Academy (PLA). Every Tuesday since late August I have been part of the class of 30 students that is entitled to listen to your advice on integrity, decision-­‐making, responsibility and above all, leadership.

Almost everything I have learned from you in that class loses meaning when I read your testimony in front of the grand jury that investigated Jerry Sandusky. You testified that AD Curley and VP Schultz came to you in 2002 reporting—as you described it—“Jerry Sandusky in the football building locker area in the shower [ ] with a younger child and that they were horsing around in the shower” which made “a member of Curley’s staff ‘uncomfortable.’” You also said that it was reported to you as nothing “sexual in nature.” And your reaction was to accept that Curley and Schultz were not going to report that to anyone? Taking away the keys was good enough? I was speechless.

You have told us (PLA students) many times that you as the head of this university are the only one that sees an issue from all angles. Where was that approach in 2002? I ask you, as a trained family therapist, the fact that a 57-­‐year-­‐old man was “horsing around” in the shower with a barely teenage boy was not enough to prompt one ounce of concern? Maybe you could have followed up with the staff member who was the original eyewitness? Maybe you could have bothered to find out who the victim was? Maybe you could have even confronted Sandusky? If that was too much to ask, maybe you should have picked up a phone and called the police?

You testified that even in April 2011 you did not know the identity of the staff member in question. For somebody who claims to be always informed of what is going on at his university, that is a pretty incredible lack of knowledge.

Being unaware of the 1998 investigation into Sandusky conducted by university as well as State College police seems even more inconceivable. I refuse to believe that you did not know but I have no proof so I will leave it at that. If you did know though, your 2002 actions become more unacceptable than I could have thought possible.

Fellow students and alumni have called for restraint and patience until the actual legal process is concluded. Some of those have also expressed support for you because you were not indicted along with Curley and Schultz. To me, that does not matter. What matters is that I can read your statement in front of the grand jury and find that you failed, regardless of the legal implications and your immense contributions to the university.

You have failed an entire university by not acting by the exact principles of honesty, integrity and honor that define it, whether the law required it or not.

You have failed us; students, staff, faculty, and alumni alike.

You have failed to report or at least follow up on an unspeakable crime and have thus, willingly or not, allowed for those crimes to continue.

You have failed the victims and their families by turning the other way, regardless of the extent of your knowledge.

And now, you are failing yourself and everyone else again by not being the leader you have always so openly proclaimed to be.

We are seeing a president that appears without compassion, focus and direction. Actually we’re not seeing you at all.

Come and speak to us and explain what the hell happened. Apologize for Saturday’s statement and fire whoever wrote that for you. Apologize to everyone you have hurt with your inaction, especially the victims of Jerry Sandusky.

I can’t imagine how these men—some are now about my age—feel and have felt for nearly two decades about all of this. I, at the least, am sad, hurt, angry and disappointed but that has to be nothing compared to their grief.

I am telling you all of this because I have known you a little better than most students since I had class with you. That also means I thought I understood your decisions and actions a little better than most students. I used to give you the benefit of the doubt when I heard other students speak poorly of you because they may have been poorly informed. I tried to enlighten them on your decision-­‐making process and all those sides you had to consider besides that of the students. I can no longer do that and will never again be able to because you testified what you did (and did not do) and I have drawn my conclusions from that. That also means I would no longer be part of the PLA if you remain the president of this university.

I am telling you all of this because I think it’s simply time somebody did. You need to clear everything up and stop trying to fix a situation that does not need fixing. What we need and what the victims need is a thorough and transparent process to provide as much closure for the victims as possible and rehabilitate us as a university—not for the sake of image but for the sake of restoring our belief in the university as a whole. Ultimately, you have to take responsibility and resign as president of Penn State.

We are, but you are not.

Felix Weigel
Sophomore – Political Science The Pennsylvania State University

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