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BOT Issues Statement Regarding Paterno, Spanier

The Penn State Board of Trustees issued a statement using the mass Penn State listerv and the new Penn State Openness website regarding their decisions to fire former President Graham Spanier and former football coach Joe Paterno. The statement can be found in its entirety below:

Report of the Board of Trustees concerning Nov. 9 decisions

The removal of Graham Spanier as Penn State president and Joe Paterno as football coach

The Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees has been asked by members of the Penn State community, including students, faculty, staff and alumni, to state clearly its reasons for the difficult decisions that were made unanimously on the evening of Nov. 9, 2011 — to remove Graham Spanier as president of the University and Joe Paterno as head football coach for the remaining three games of the 2011 season. Our decisions were guided by our obligation as Trustees, always, to put the interests of the University first.

We share the grief of the entire Penn State family at the passing of Coach Paterno. We also continue to respect and appreciate Dr. Spanier’s and Coach Paterno’s lasting contributions to Penn State. We especially honor the great legacy of Coach Paterno in making his football program a model for his emphasis on academic as well as athletic performance and for his generous support of Penn State through the years.

We offer this report guided by one overriding commitment going forward—to remember the children who may have been victims of sexual abuse on or near the University Park campus over the last 10 or more years and to support their healing process as best we can.

President Graham Spanier

We determined on Nov. 9 that Dr. Spanier should be removed because he failed to meet his leadership responsibilities to the Board and took insufficient action after learning of a 2002 incident involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and a young boy in a Penn State facility. This failure of leadership included insufficiently informing the Board about his knowledge of the 2002 incident. He also made or was involved in press announcements between Nov. 5-9 that were without authorization of the Board or contrary to its instructions.

On Nov. 9, Dr. Spanier asked the Board for a vote of confidence. Since for the reasons cited above we were unable to provide it, we voted that evening unanimously to remove him as president and informed him of that decision. Dr. Spanier remains a tenured professor at Penn State.

Coach Joe Paterno

Also on Nov. 9, the Board unanimously made the decision to remove Coach Paterno for the last three games of the season. He had announced earlier that day that he would be retiring at the end of the season.

Our most important reason — by far — for this difficult decision flowed from what we learned on Nov. 5, for the first time, from a “presentment” (report) by a Pennsylvania Grand Jury about Coach Paterno’s early 2011 sworn testimony.

The report stated that a Penn State graduate assistant had gone to Coach Paterno’s home on Saturday morning, March 2, 2002. The report quoted Coach Paterno as testifying to the Grand Jury that the graduate assistant told him that he had seen Jerry Sandusky, the coach’s former assistant coach up to 1999, “in the Lasch Building showers fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy.”

While Coach Paterno did his legal duty by reporting that information the next day, Sunday, March 3, to his immediate superior, the then Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley, the Board reasonably inferred that he did not call police. We determined that his decision to do his minimum legal duty and not to do more to follow up constituted a failure of leadership by Coach Paterno.

The Board spent hours on conference calls between Saturday, Nov. 5, and Tuesday, Nov. 8, discussing appropriate action and our fiduciary responsibility as the Trustees. On Wednesday evening, Nov. 9, we met in person in State College. At about 9 pm, we unanimously made the difficult decision that Coach Paterno’s failure of leadership required his removal as football coach.

We are sorry for the unfortunate way we had to deliver the news on the telephone about an hour later to Coach Paterno. However, we saw no better alternative. Because Coach Paterno’s home was surrounded by media representatives, photographers and others, we did not believe there was a dignified, private and secure way to send Board representatives to meet with him there. Nor did we believe it would be wise to wait until the next morning, since we believed it was probable that Coach Paterno would hear the news beforehand from other sources, which would be inappropriate.

Thus, we sent a representative of the Athletic Department to ask Coach Paterno to call us. When the coach called, the Board member who received the call planned to tell him that (1) the Board had decided unanimously to remove him as coach; (2) the Board regretted having to deliver the message over the telephone; and (3) his employment contract would continue, including all financial benefits and his continued status as a tenured faculty member. However, after this Board member communicated the first message, Coach Paterno ended the call, so the second and third messages could not be delivered.

Many alumni, faculty, staff and students are inquiring about how we plan to honor Coach Paterno’s many contributions to the University. It has always been the Board’s intention to fulfill his employment contract and to name him head coach emeritus. Other options also are under consideration, but the Board feels it would be premature to make any final decision at least until the final report of the independent counsel Judge Louis Freeh is publicly issued in conjunction with the Special Investigations Task Force.

Remembering the Children

We remain committed to remembering the children who were allegedly assaulted over the last 10 or more years, many on Penn State’s University Park campus, and whose lives may well be scarred for years to come. The University has offered and will provide counseling and related health care services. We have contributed financially to organizations dedicated to protecting victims of sexual assault and child abuse.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, joined by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, have agreed to join with the University to co-sponsor a national forum at Penn State on child sexual abuse. We plan to invite representatives from our 24 campuses, as well as from other Pennsylvania colleges and universities. We hope to turn this tragedy into an important teaching moment. We hope such a forum would bring together the nation’s experts to inform all on recognizing early signs of child sexual abuse, the long-term effects on child sexual assault victims, and the legal and ethical responsibility to report even suspicions of such abuse.

As one member of the Board of Trustees, Ken Frazier, put it so well:

“…[E]very adult has a responsibility for every child in our community. And …we have a responsibility not to do the minimum, the legal requirement. We have a responsibility for ensuring that we can make every effort that’s within our power not only to prevent further harm to that one child, but to every child.”

That is our commitment to the children … and to the core values that have always made Penn State a great university.

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About the Author

Kevin Horne

Kevin Horne was the editor of Onward State from 2012-2014 and currently holds the position of Managing Editor Emeritus, which is a fake title he made up. He graduated from Penn State with degrees journalism and political science in 2014 and is currently seeking his J.D. at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. A third generation Penn Stater from Williamsport, Pa., Kevin is also the president of the graduate student government. Email: [email protected]

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