Within the last week, Penn State has come under a great deal of fire in response to their handling of the Gerry Sandusky scandal. After the arrest and release of information regarding the multiple child molestation allegations leveled against Sandusky, the Penn State Board of Trustees was faced with making immediate decisions. Those who were implicated in perjury, including Tim Curey, the school’s athletic director and Gerry Schultz, the Senior Vice President of Finance and Business, didn’t bring the reports to police attention.
In 2002, when graduate assistant Mike McQueary allegedly saw Sandusky performing an act of statutory rape in the Penn State shower facilities, McQueary took these allegations to Joe Paterno, head coach of the football department. Paterno did take the report up the chain-of-command to his bosses, doing what he is legally responsible to do.
However, there is still debate as to what the graduate assistant actually told Paterno regarding what he saw. Until this information is made clear, public unrest will still continue regarding the recent firing of Paterno and the school’s president, Graham Spainer. Spainer was informed of the decision made by Curey and Schultz that Sandusky would be barred from bringing any more children to the football facilities, which Spainer approved. This was the only action taken by Curey and Schultz against Sandusky, certainly explaining how they are convicted of perjury. Sandusky instead was able to continue working with kids at Penn States satellite campus in Behrend.
Riots recently broke out on and around campus regarding the firing of both Paterno and Spainer, which the student body is viewing as a disservice to their long, storied careers there. This is especially true of Paterno who, at 84 years old, has served 46 years in association with the school. He announced early Wednesday, 11/9/11, that he planned to retire after the 3 remaining games in the season. However, the Penn State Board of Trustees outright fired him and all those involved in the scandal later that night.
Was this right for them to do? I believe so. The Board of Trustees acted in the best interest of the school as a whole, not in defense of their football team, their coaches, or even their president. Those who didn’t bring the information to light after 9 years allowed Sandusky to continue his abuse, so to foster positive pubic opinion, they had to distance themselves from all those associated. This is a common practice for situations like this and it leaves me confused as to why people are so upset.
If I were the PR agent in control of the situation, I would have done the same thing, but likely sooner. I understand that the Board of Trustees was working on a timetable to determine the validity of all the allegations, but I would have tried to distance myself quicker. As soon as it was revealed who was implicit in the Grand Jury statement, I would have allowed them to tender their immediate resignations, to maintain any sense of personal dignity, or be fired as a consequence.
Obviously they would have to go, but allowing them to resign would have protected the integrity of the programs as well. The only backlash I can see from this would be public outcry in not letting Paterno complete his current term as head coach. However, this was a necessary action because it is in the best interest of the school to distance itself from all those involved. The school’s current objective is to maintain ad revenue, funding, and alumni donations to insure that their image and prosperity are not hurt.
In subsequent months, I would insure that any news regarding the case was made free and available to the public, fostering a sense of trust and honesty. I would begin a marketing campaign around the campus based in “restoring school pride” to show that we can recover from atrocities such as these. By being so open about our faults, the school would be able to rebuild its image from the ground up.
The only repercussion I can imagine from a campaign such as this is people continuing to associate the school with the incidents. However, I would have to hope this would pass because we aren’t burying it like we are expected to. The restore school pride campaign would only last for one group of incoming freshman, by then we will have replaced those fired and will be on our way to success.