Often internal investigations into university scandals or tragedies result in long reports that present timelines, documents and facts, but stop short of placing blame on individual leaders. Not so at Penn State University.
A report released on Thursday by Louis Freeh, the former head of the FBI who was hired by the university to conduct an eight-month investigation, boldly names the leaders who investigators say failed to publicly identify Jerry Sandusky as a child molester and to protect children who visited campus.
Early in the 267-page report is this verdict: “Four of the most powerful people at The Pennsylvania State University — President Graham B. Spanier, Senior Vice President-Finance and Business Gary C. Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley and Head Football Coach Joseph V. Paterno — failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade. These men concealed Sandusky’s activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities. They exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky’s victims.”
(FYI: I wrote for a live blog Thursday about the release of the report and responses to it. You can check that out, here.)
The report has been criticized by some for its attack on the four leaders. Attorneys representing Curley and Schultz said in statements that the report is incomplete and missing the accounts of key players. Spanier’s attorneys said that the report’s conclusions of blame are not backed up by the facts.
None of the four men is actively working at Penn State right now: Spanier was forced out of his presidency in November, Paterno was fired and died in January, Schultz retired, and Curley is on administrative leave.
Two of the four, Schultz and Curley, have been criminally charged with perjury for lying to a grand jury and not reporting child abuse. Neither man was interviewed for the report, and both maintain their innocence. A trial date has yet to be set.
Spanier has not been charged. His attorneys released a statement on Thursday stating that the report is wrong in concluding that the former president concealed information. They wrote that Spanier has “steadfastly maintained” that at no time during his presidency was he “told of any incident involving Jerry Sandusky that described child abuse, sexual misconduct, or criminality of any nature.”
While this internal investigation has concluded, others continue: Criminal charges against the administrators continue to work their way through the legal system. The NCAA is investigating if there is a lack of institutional control and unethical conduct at Penn State. And the Department of Education is investigating whether Penn State violated a federal law mandating the reporting of crimes committed on campus.
The report concluded that all four leaders had at least two opportunities to confront and stop Sandusky:
* In 1998, the mother of an 11-year-old boy contacted police after her son was inappropriately touched by Sandusky in a Penn State shower. School authorities were notified and the report includes e-mails and notes showing Schultz and Curley closely following the investigation and updating Spanier. Charges were never filed. Two e-mails indicate that Paterno was also briefed on the issue, contradicting the legendary coach’s assertion that he knew nothing of the incident.
In May 1998, Schultz reportedly scribbled a note that read: “Is this opening of pandora’s box? Other children?”
* In 2001, an assistant coach told Paterno that he saw Sandusky and a young boy naked in a shower. That coach, Mike McQueary, testified last month that he saw Sandusky rape the boy and that he explained what he saw to top university officials, including Curley and Schultz.
The report also criticized Penn State for having a football-worshipping culture where employees, even janitors, were afraid to report crimes or ask questions. And the report went after Penn State trustees for not demanding answers when they learned that top administrators were testifying before a grand jury. At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, leaders of the trustees said they take responsibility for their failings and have already implemented changes in how they operate.
And then there are the legacies. Many have asked: What does this report mean for the legacy of Paterno? Should the university still have a statue of him on campus?
But there are other legacies and reputations also in question: Spanier was just as much of a well-respected rockstar in the higher ed world as Paterno was in the sports world. Schultz spent is whole career at Penn State and had a childcare center named in his honor. Curley grew up in State College and worked his way up in the athletic department, earning devoted fans along the way.
An attorney representing Curley wrote in a statement that the former athletic director “looks forward to his day in court and the opportunity to present a comprehensive slate of facts to an impartial jury, within the fair confines of a judicial proceeding where he is presumed innocent.”
The Post produced a slew of articles and columns about the report Thursday. Here are a few that I recommend you read:
Front-page article: Freeh report lambastes Penn State leadership
Sally Jenkins column: The truth is, Joe Paterno lied
The Answer Sheet blog: Report on Penn State board’s failures has ramifications for U-Va. board