To Chairwoman Peetz
Dear Chairwoman Peetz,
It was with sadness that I read yet another story by Sara Ganim today. This isn’t the first time Ganim has brought me news that breaks my heart; it’s the reason she has become a household name for many Penn Staters. Each update from the Patriot News has added yet another disheartening dimension to this profound tragedy. And today, Chairwoman, the story was about you.
“Penn State hasn’t yet helped alleged victims as promised,” reads the title of the article published this afternoon. And, up to the moment the story went out, it was exactly right — Penn State had failed on its promise.
Strange things happened, though. At least they seemed to be strange from my perspective, a perspective I dare say is shared by the majority of Penn Staters across this great nation. I invoke this perspective solely to juxtapose it with your own. You may have graduated from Penn State, but clearly, given your actions, you do not feel how we feel.
The failure and the shame of Penn State this year–and in the years leading up to the destructive revelations this past fall–can be summed up easily. We were not Proud. For the first time that we could remember, Penn State had acted illegally and immorally. The court processes will proceed as they may, and who knows whether Messrs. Curley and Schultz will be found guilty of perjury, nor do we know if our former Dear President will face a similar fate as well. But in the court of public opinion, from the perspective of the average Penn Stater — we have failed as an institution and a community.
The magnitude of those events is impossible to overstate. But we emerged from the immediate chaos with one thing, I thought, clear in our community consciousness: This could never happen again. President Erickson promised us that he would lead by example and that he would reinforce “the the moral imperative of doing the right thing – the first time, every time.” In living up to that oath, you both have failed. And, once again, the hellacious news hailed out of Harrisburg.
When you were introduced as Chairwoman at the Board of Trustees meeting on January 21 — I was there — you stood at the podium and shared with us all this statement, among other remarks:
Immediately, we will reach out to the victims we know of and seek to pay for their abuse-related health costs, to pay for related counseling they have had to date, and to pay for counseling going forward related to the abuse.
But as of the moment Ganim published her story this afternoon, two months to the day after you laid them out, none of these goals had been achieved. But then, like I said — something strange happened. The Patriot News story was updated to note that “moments after” it had been published, Penn State released to the Associated Press that it had entered “an arrangement with Praesidium Inc. that the university says fulfills the commitment made by the school president and trustees’ chairman to help alleged victims.”
And then the university trotted out a press release on its own website reiterating the same information (with the not-at-all reassuring note that the company specializes in “risk abuse management”).
So, two full months after your pledge to “immediately” reach out to the victims, pay for related counseling to date, and pay for counseling going forward, you have delivered on exactly one (1) of those. And that promise was only fulfilled after we had to hear about yet another administrative failure at Penn State.
Chairwoman Peetz, with all due respect — What the fuck?
Over the next year, most of what happens will be out of your and President Erickson’s hands.
The court process will proceed while the evil actions of your colleagues are unearthed internally by Louis Freeh’s committee — or alternatively, since you will be vetting the report, it’s possible that the worst findings will be declawed, though I doubt the trawl net will come up entirely empty.
Jerry Sandusky will, with the hope of all that is mighty, be found guilty in the eyes of Justice and sentenced to a term much longer than what of his miserable existence remains.
But of that which we — which you — can control, namely how we follow through with President Erickson’s promise of “doing the right thing the first time, every time” — you have already failed in an extraordinary way.
Two months after you stood in front of your peers on the Board, the dozens of journalists flanking the room, and an audience of millions, you have failed to deliver two of the three simple pledges you made to us about how Penn State would treat the victims. The victims. And at that simple task you failed.
There were no doubt boys and families who heard the same things I heard back in January. Young men who had the courage to work with Pennsylvania prosecutors to litigate against a man who is — allegedly, as I hope we need not say much longer — one of the most evil to ever walk the campus of Penn State. Young men who spoke out against a legendary football coach and philanthropist, whose name was gold in State College, and faced the prospect of staring him dead-on in a courtroom as he calls them liars. Young men who had to face the prospect of bringing up the long-repressed memories, suffering through their abuses over and over again in their minds the way they hadn’t in years. The victims, in every sense of the word.
Have you lost sight of all that is good, Chairwoman Peetz? Why has Penn State been unable to deliver on your promise to contact the victims? And why hadn’t you released the information about Praesidium before Ganim got hers yet again?
I admit that I might expound on topics outside of my immediate expertise. But I know Penn State and I know myself and I know that right now, your actions have made me once again ashamed to call this place home. If those we look to lead this university can not abide by our most fundamental precept — “may no act of ours bring shame” — how can we claim to have any sort of moral compass at our core?
Chairwoman Peetz, we haven’t met, but I owe you no courtesy in asking you this one thing. Do right by the victims. If you can at least do that, we’ll take it from there.
For the glory,
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About the Author
We dance in 275, Penn State!
We dance in 275, Penn State!
Underwood is bringing her “The Denim & Rhinestones” tour to Happy Valley next spring.
“Jana Marie Foundation harnesses the power of creative expression and dialogue to spark conversations, build connections, and promote mental well-being among young people and their communities.”