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Collegian’s Freeh Report Editorial Misses the Mark

The Daily Collegian ran an editorial yesterday vilifying those calling for the Board of Trustees to review the Freeh Report and urging the board to simply move forward and enact the recommendations for the university that were laid out in the report.

I took issue with the editorial’s assertion — not because it was condescending, went in complete circles, or the fact that each sentence got its own paragraph — but because of the flawed premise that The Collegian based their argument on.

Below are some excerpts from the article to give you a better idea of where the mysterious Collegian “Board of Opinions” went astray:

“[Reviewing the Freeh report] will be a neverending cycle until it’s decided that enough is enough. And that’s exactly what the trustees did. … There is no reason for the university to review [it], the goal is to implement these recommendations that will inevitably better our school.”

Here’s an idea: do both. Why can’t the university begin working on implementing those recommendations, which are for the most part common sense and beneficial, while at the same time attempt to form their own conclusions based on the massive section of ambiguous evidence labeled “Exhibits” at the end of the Freeh Report?

I personally read every page of the report, and while a lot of the communications between Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz, and Tim Curley are very suggestive, it is highly possible that a different group of independent investigators could have come up with different set of conclusions based on their interpretation of the evidence.

The Freeh report contains many pieces of important evidence, but it’s important to compartmentalize fact from opinion, and understand all the components that make up the document. Curley, Schultz, Paterno, Sandusky, McQueary, and other key witnesses were never interviewed by Freeh. Many of the damning conclusions Freeh makes stretch the evidence presented to an extreme. I’m not saying the entire report is garbage, but wouldn’t it at least be worth auditing?

Why are the ideas of reviewing the report and implementing the recommendations mutually exclusive? Why does it have to be one or the other?

“The Freeh report will not exonerate former football coach Joe Paterno. It will not take back the criticism that Penn State and its community has had to deal with over the past year. … If anything, it hinders our progression.”

I don’t think that anyone is expecting the clocks to be turned back and the massive amounts of public criticism of Penn State to suddenly disappear if the Freeh Report is reviewed, but I also don’t see how it “hinders our progression” to recognize that Louis Freeh’s opinion doesn’t have to be the final word and that our Board of Trustees is more than capable of reading the first nine chapters of the report instead of just skipping to the recommendations in the tenth.

Look, I’m not one of the alumni extremists that thinks JoePa is saintly and the entire board should resign, but why wouldn’t the board want to review a report that it commissioned? If you’re going to spend $6.5 million, you should probably check that what you’re getting isn’t flawed. It’s not as if the healing process suddenly comes to a halt the second a board member goes beyond the Freeh Report’s table of contents.

“It gives resolution and an opportunity to ask questions for those still wondering about the varying degrees of topics that the public has been pushing for the board to address. … This is a step in the right direction, as the public gets to be more and more involved.”

But what good does the open board session with public commentary do if it isn’t going to take into consideration what the alumni and students want? The board’s mission statement says that its job is to act on the “welfare of the University and all the interests pertaining thereto including students, faculty, staff and alumni.” Getting the “public … to be more and more involved” is meaningless if it isn’t going to listen to that public and act based on what we say our interests are, not what they think our interests are.

The Collegian thinks that they have the interests of the university in mind, too. The article’s premise is that reviewing the Freeh Report means putting off that whole “moving forward” thing for the time being, but it is possible to continue “moving forward” while maintaining a critical eye. It’s unlikely that the NCAA sanctions will be revoked, but I would at least like a Board of Trustees that has the courage to stand up against a document that incriminates the so-called “Penn State culture.”

Let me just summarize my position in a format that maybe the Daily Collegian can understand:

We can act on the report’s recommendations.

We can come up with our own recommendations.

We can continue to put the spotlight on the strong reputation of Penn State’s academics and research and take it off of the negative image that this scandal has cast on the university.

We can continue moving forward into a new era for Penn State.

And we can make sure the Freeh Report wasn’t a giant waste of money along the way.

About the Author

Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a StateCollege.com reporter and Onward State's Managing Editor Emeritus. You can find him at the Phyrst more nights than not. If he had to pick a last meal, Zach would go for a medium-rare New York strip steak with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a cold BrewDog Punk IPA. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected] or on Twitter at @theZachBerger.

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