Crowd rallies against PSU trustees|
Monday, September 17, 2012
By Wendy Lynn Brion Staff Writer
STATE COLLEGE - More than 1,000 people gathered in front of Old Main on the Penn State University Park Campus Saturday morning for a "Rally 4 Resignations," organized by a dissatisfied group of alumni and supporters. The rally organizers are calling for the resignation of the board of trustees, except for the three newly-elected members, President Rodney Erikson and Gov. Tom Corbett.
Attendees carried signs with various slogans including, "Resign," "409 forever," "Hey, Karen, resign for Peetz sake," "Remember, remember the 9th of November," and so on. Most wore Penn State gear, including recently produced shirts in honor of Joe Paterno and protesting decisions made by the board of trustees and NCAA.
The rally kicked off just before 10 a.m. with the song "Sweet Caroline" played over the speakers and the crowd singing along. The song was recently removed from the play list at Penn State football games. The song was followed by five speakers, beginning with Franco Harris, a former Penn State and Steelers football player who has been spearheading efforts to overturn decisions made by the board of trustees and the NCAA, and who has attempted to open dialogue between the board and alumni.
Harris was introduced by one of the organizers who noted the rally was not about Joe Paterno or football, or the unspeakable crime of child abuse, but about the alumni making a statement and pledging to find and reveal the truth.
Harris began by saying he is not looking for publicity, he never planned on any of this but circumstances have thrown him into the situation. He noted the university has stood for almost 160 years and "we love our university." Harris said the board of trustees acted in haste on Nov. 9 without giving former Coach Joe Paterno and former President Graham Spanier due process. "One hundred and sixty years, and they didn't take the time," he said.
He said in the future people will ask what happened, and someone in the crowd shouted, "Sold out!" Harris continued by saying the important question is, "how did Penn Staters handle it?" He said the future hangs on "your commitment, on your sacrifice, on the truth. It's up to us, not the board of trustees." He added that the board doesn't think it has to answer to anyone and can do what they want to.
The football legacy is not to be torn down but built on, Harris said, and it is about what we accomplish here on earth and making the world better for future generations. The actions of the board, he said, won't change how great the university is. He pointed to the strides the university community has recently made in raising $500,000 for child abuse awareness, adding that this is not unusual for Penn State's students and alumni, who often reach out to help others.
"We need a change in leadership and we have to do it ourselves," Harris said.
Faculty member John O'Donnell spoke to the crowd and noted he first came to Penn State in 1964 when Rip Engle was head football coach. He talked about the academic record of Penn State and noted that employers often note in surveys that Penn State graduates have the best academics and work ethic of any school. He said, "Come Monday, the boys from both teams (Penn State and Navy) will be in the classroom."
He noted the Wall Street Journal recently conducted a poll and Penn State was ranked No. 1 for new hires, and the university is in the top 50 of world universities.
In the past two years, he said, Penn State has generated more Fulbright Scholars than any other university in the nation. "No athlete receives academic preference. It just doesn't happen," he said.
Alumni and event organizer Larry Schultz listed some of the mistakes made by the board, noting they were briefed about the subpoenas to the grand jury in Harrisburg by Spanier in early 2011, and they had no questions for him. In late October the president of the board learned of the indictments one to two weeks before, but the board was still unprepared by the events in November and following months. He listed several other failings, saying, "They failed us, they betrayed us and they must resign."
The final speaker was Anthony Lubrano, former Penn State football player and current member of the board of trustees who talked about having to work with the board members and his attempt to set a higher standard for the board. He recalled meeting with Paterno on Jan. 10 and Paterno said, "Remember, this isn't about me, this is about our school and leaving it a better place than we found it." Lubrano said the school cannot move forward by leaving behind the people who "made us who we are." He urged the crowd to vote in upcoming alumni elections for the board and contact legislators for reform on how the board is made up, noting only 9 members are elected by alumni, and the rest are either business and industry appointments by a committee on the board, or appointed by the governor.
The crowd was asked by organizers to continue contacting the board and legislators and the governor's office and to keep in touch on Facebook and other social media.