National Press Club

Penn State to implement 119 reforms after Sandusky scandal, its president pledges

November 2, 2012 | By Ken Dalecki |

Penn State President Rodney Erickson

Penn State President Rodney Erickson

Photo/Image: Marshall H. Cohen

Speaking at a National Press Club luncheon Nov. 2, a day after his predecessor was charged with being part of a "conspiracy of silence" in the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case, Pennsylvania State University President Rodney Erickson vowed to implement 119 reform recommendations by the end of next year to insure that nothing like that scandal can happen again.

Erickson, who will retire in June 2014 after 37 years at Penn State, said the university has already adopted more than a third of the 119 reforms recommended in July by former FBI director Louis Freeh after his independent university-requested investigation of the failure of the school to act in the Sandusky case.

Sandusky, a former assistant football coach, was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison in October after being convicted of abusing numerous boys over many years while heading a youth program that utilized Penn State facilities.

Former Penn State President Graham Spanier and two of his assistants were charged Nov. 1 by Pennsylviania State Attorney General Linda Kelly with being part of a conspiracy to "actively conceal the truth" about Sandusky's crimes. They face charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, endangering the welfare of children and criminal conspiracy. Spanier has denied the charges, which he said are politically motivated.

Erickson declined to comment when asked if he thought Spanier and several other members of the university board of trustees had knowledge of Sandusky's offenses but did nothing about it to protect the university. He said Spanier has been well regarded by students and faculty at Penn State.

Asked if he was under investigation, Erickson said "not that I know of."

"Joe Paterno was a larger-than-life figure during his 61 years at Penn State," Erickson said when asked if the legendary football coach who died in January might have his reputation restored after he too allegedly failed to act on knowledge of Sandusky's abuses.

Erickson said it is "a fitting tribute" to keep Paterno's name on the university library in view of support he and his family gave to education at the 157-year-old university. But Paterno's statue his been removed from campus and the team he led has been severely sanctioned by the NCAA in the wake of the Sandusky scandal.

Erickson said that in time ways to honor Paterno's coaching career might be reconsidered.

Erickson said the toughest decision he has had to make as the 17th president of Penn State was signing off on the NCAA's sanctions against the university football program, including a $60 million fine and a four-year ban on postseason play. He said Penn State had no negotiating leverage with the NCAA and that killing the football program would have been a financial disaster for the university and the local economy.

The university president said Penn State received a record 123,000 student applications this year in spite of the Sandusky scandal. He said the university remains a top recruiting ground for major businesses and noted the steps it has taken to make Penn State a leader in child abuse research and prevention.

"Penn State is a great university that will endure as it has always endured, will recover, and will continue to advance teaching, research and service," Erickson said.