Students Speak Their Mind At Penn State Forum

Penn State students attended a forum on campus Wednesday night to discuss the child sex abuse scandal. Former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is charged with abusing eight boys over a 15-year period. A new accuser, who is not part of the criminal case, has filed a lawsuit alleging Sandusky abused him more than 100 times and threatened his family to keep him quiet.

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The last time the world paid attention to students at Penn State, the image was not pretty. Some protested the firing of football coach Joe Paterno; people even overturned a TV news truck after Paterno lost his job for failing to do more about allegations of child sexual abuse.

Criminal proceedings and lawsuits in that case may continue for years. And last night, Penn State held a forum on campus so students could tell administrators what's on their minds. NPR's Jeff Brady was there.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: There were only a few questions about the criminal investigation under way, and why longtime football coach Joe Paterno was fired. Many students talked about how the scandal will affect Penn State's reputation. Here's junior Aubrey Fulton.

AUBREY FULTON: A lot of us are worried right now about how that's going to reflect when we go out into the job market because, you know, our degree now comes tacked with this. So what should we do when we're facing employers trying to talk to them about this, and how should we counteract that in interviews?

BRADY: Administrators assured students they're meeting with companies that tend to hire Penn State grads, to address any concerns. Overall, they say, companies are still interested in recruiting. Hank Foley is dean of the graduate school, and says a company will be on campus today.

HANK FOLEY: I don't see any diminution in numbers of sponsors coming and companies coming. But once you're hired, you know, colleagues and others will ask you about this. And it's important to have thought about it, to think about what you'd say to them.

BRADY: Administrators clearly wanted to comfort students concerned the scandal might harm the value of the education they're spending time and money to earn. University President Rod Erickson pointed out that student applications are up from last year.

ROD ERICKSON: We have over 40,000 baccalaureate applications in right now, and I'm told that only eight students have withdrawn their applications.

BRADY: Nearby in the student union, Jonathan Zuk was catching up on homework while watching the forum on a large television.

JONATHAN ZUK: I actually really liked the last guy's question, about the tuition getting raised. Like, is that going to fall on us to pay higher tuition now that it might be the case that we're going to lose a lot of funding and benefits and stuff from, you know, alumni and donations, and stuff like that?

BRADY: President Erickson didn't address fundraising directly, but he did say the university will be lobbying for state money, and he said the school has insurance to pay for any legal settlements that might be coming. Yesterday, in Philadelphia, lawyer Jeff Anderson announced the first civil lawsuit associated with the scandal. He read a written statement from a 29-year-old man who says Jerry Sandusky sexually abused him from age 10 to 14.

JEFF ANDERSON: (Reading) I am hurting and have been for a long time because of what happened, but feel now even more tormented that I have learned of so many other kids who were abused after me.

BRADY: The alleged victim is not named in the lawsuit, which was filed against Sandusky, the Second Mile charity he founded for at-risk kids, and Penn State. The lawsuit claims officials with the charity, and the university, failed to protect him and other alleged victims.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, State College, Pennsylvania.

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