STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The head of Penn State’s board of trustees is warning of difficult times ahead as the school tries to make changes following the child sex abuse scandal.
Board Chairwoman Karen Peetz said at a public meeting Saturday that the months ahead “may be less shocking, but they may well be more difficult as the legal ramifications of this tragedy continue to play out.”
She said the board is committed to making changes and was reviewing plans to implement recommendations of a university report conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh.
“There are some with differing opinions, some who say ‘fight back,’” she said. “While I’m respectful of those individuals, let me be clear: We must not and will not waiver in accepting responsibility and reality. We’ll take decisive actions to right wrongs, change and improve processes and operations, and demonstrate values-based leadership in all we do.”
Former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted in June of abusing 10 boys, some on campus. He has maintained his innocence as he awaits sentencing. Former Penn State administrator Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley, who is on leave, await trial on charges of perjury and failure to report suspected child abuse. Both have denied the charges.
On Friday, a Sandusky victim filed a lawsuit against Penn State and lawyers for other victims have suggested they will take legal action.
Peetz’ remarks came during an on-campus weekend retreat to discuss a search for a new president and the landmark NCAA sanctions against the school that included a four-year bowl ban and a $60 million fine.
Freeh’s report concluded that top Penn State officials concealed information about sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky to avoid bad publicity. Among other things, the report recommended evaluating security and access protocols for campus buildings and better tracking of university programs involving children.
Trustees on Saturday unveiled, but didn’t vote on, a preliminary plan for implementing the Freeh report recommendations and an athletic integrity agreement with the NCAA. Teams of trustees, administrators, and project managers will answer to an advisory council that currently includes representatives from faculty and staff, students, the medical center, athletics department and advocacy groups. An accounting firm is tracking the university’s progress on the recommendations.
Peetz said all of Freeh’s initial recommendations have been completed or are nearing completion. She noted that the NCAA is “open to Penn State choosing not to accept all recommendations.”
Toward the end of the meeting, Trustee Joel Myers released a statement saying Penn State has a “clear and enviable record” when it comes to athletic integrity and focus on academics. He accused the NCAA of wanting to “tear down this model” and urged the board to fight the sanctions.
“In the cold light of day, I believe we have to stand against this, not stand down,” he said.
But Trustee Keith Eckel said Penn State must move forward.
“We are absolutely going to be the university the nation looks up to again,” he said.
Schultz, Curley, and ousted university President Graham Spanier as well as the family of former coach Joe Paterno strongly deny Freeh’s findings. The famed coach was fired in November. He died in January at age 85.