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Penn State President Meets With Alumni
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Penn State President Meets With Alumni

Education

Penn State President Meets With Alumni

Penn State President Meets With Alumni
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Pennsylvania State University President Rodney Erickson is meeting with alumni this week to address questions about the child sex abuse scandal that rocked the school.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. Penn State president Rodney Erickson has spent the past few days getting grilled by alumni. More than two months after a child sex abuse scandal upended the university, alums are angry, but their focus is not so much the alleged crimes, instead it's how administrators have dealt with the scandal, specifically their decision to fire long time football coach Joe Paterno.

Last night, Erickson met with Penn State alumni in suburban Philadelphia and NPR's Jeff Brady was there.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Just days after child sex abuse charges were filed against retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, the board of trustees fired football coach Joe Paterno and the school president. That's when Rodney Erickson took the helm.

Last night, in a hotel meeting room, before a crowd of about 600 alumni, Erickson laid out an overriding goal for his tenure.

RODNEY ERICKSON: I will not allow this great university and its long and historic legacy as a leader in higher education to be defined by this horrible tragedy.

BRADY: While a strong statement, that was not one of the applause lines of the evening. Here's Penn State alum Beth Wells.

BETH WELLS: Why did the board fire Joe Paterno prior to conducting an internal investigation?

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

BRADY: President Erickson referred questions about Paterno's firing to the board of trustees, which issued a statement Thursday. It said trustees unanimously decided letting the coach go was in the best interest of the university.

That didn't go over well at another meeting in the same hotel last night. Downstairs, a group of alumni who want to get rid of the entire board of trustees held a competing conversation. Former Penn State and pro football player Franco Harris responded to the board's statement that it acted in the best interest of the university.

FRANCO HARRIS: They think that we are that dumb. That's exactly what they said two months ago and they still want us to swallow that.

BRADY: Harris is a legendary Pittsburgh Steelers running back who played in the 1970s and early '80s. It didn't take long for someone in the audience to suggest he campaign for a seat on Penn State's board of trustees.

HARRIS: OK. Now, OK. Now, you know my running days are over.

BRADY: Back upstairs in the official meeting, 1982 graduate Anthony Lubrano chastised President Erickson for not issuing an apology to former Coach Paterno.

ANTHONY LUBRANO: You haven't even yet called the man. There has been no one from this university, no one in an administrative capacity, call Coach Paterno. Coach Bill O'Brien called him Monday night and he's only been with us a couple of days.

BRADY: Much of the discussion centered on the firing of Paterno and how the scandal has harmed Penn State's reputation. At one point, President Erickson steered the conversation toward the 10 alleged victims.

ERICKSON: There are some things that happened here, if true, we need to take responsibility for. If there are victims, by God, we need to do right by them. We need to see that they get justice.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

BRADY: Penn State alumni raised more than a half million dollars to help victims of sexual assault in the weeks after the scandal broke. Two months on, many of them are now focusing their anger on how the school's leadership treated Joe Paterno.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Philadelphia.

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