Sandusky's Scandal Still Rocking Penn State

Melissa Block talks to Penn State associate dean Marie Hardin about how the school's campus culture has changed as a result of the Sandusky trial and the university investigation.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

For some faculty reaction now, I'm joined by Penn State associate dean Marie Hardin. She's with the College of Communications there. Dean Hardin, welcome to the program.

MARIE HARDIN: Hi, Melissa. Glad to be here.

BLOCK: The report is damning. It talks about top university officials having a callous and shocking disregard for child victims, a cover-up to avoid the consequences of bad publicity. What are your thoughts as you read details of this report?

HARDIN: You know, I think there - if I could sum them up, it would be grief, sadness, anger and just bringing back a lot of feelings that I think that I've had and others have had since the story broke back in November. But this report is, unfortunately, it's confirming some news that had been leaking out in the last few weeks, so just a lot of grief.

BLOCK: I'm curious about the role of the university board and whether you might have thoughts on that. The report says that the board failed to create an environment of accountability. You do have a new trustee on the board - Anthony Lubrano - who criticized the old trustees when they fired Joe Paterno. He wanted them to apologize to the family. He campaigned with a Joe Paterno tribute ad. What message do you think that sends?

HARDIN: You know, Paterno is such a powerful figure in the history and the culture of Penn State, and he seems to really be a polarizing figure right now. And, I guess, it's not surprising at all that there would be members of the board who feel so strongly and speak out so strongly for him. It's unfortunate right now with the incredible evidence that we have that we still have this division around how we should see Joe Paterno and how we should see the way he handled the situation. But it's not surprising, really, given his history with the institution. After all, our library is named after him. So, you know, you can't walk through downtown State College without seeing an image of Joe Paterno probably every 100 to 200 feet, quite frankly.

BLOCK: Do you think this report will change anything in people's attitudes, or are they pretty much ingrained?

HARDIN: I think that it will change attitudes. I think that it has started changing attitudes because I think that no one should be on the kind of pedestal as a community that we'd put Joe Paterno on. I do think there will be folks, as there are in any circumstance like this, who aren't going to change the way that they see this, but I do think that there are lots of people who are open to the truth and who want the truth about this.

BLOCK: This does raise all sorts of questions, though, doesn't it about the role of big sports at a school like Penn State and the influence that they wield. We heard about the group of janitors who wanted to come forward after one of them saw Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulting a child in the shower, but they were afraid of being fired. They were afraid to take on the football program, Freeh said. You teach sports journalism. What do you think could change that? Does that concern you?

HARDIN: It concerns me tremendously, and I think it concerns a lot of faculty and staff because the mission of higher education in the United States isn't supposed to have those kinds of priorities. And I think at Penn State there are literally thousands of faculty and staff who've been distressed by this tragedy, this catastrophe where it was clear that the priorities of the institution had been flipped. And I think it's safe to say that you've got a faculty at Penn State who want to work hard to change that.

BLOCK: And how would that happen?

HARDIN: Well, you know, I think that it's got to be faculty and staff speaking up. I think that it's a clear-minded and a laser-sharp focus on the mission and the vision of Penn State as an academic institution, as an institution of higher learning. And I think one thing that I'm excited about is I think our president, Rodney Erickson, has charted a course for us and made that our priority, and that's encouraging. And I think that you've got a faculty and a staff that are hungry to get behind him to turn those priorities around.

BLOCK: Dean Hardin, you're on vacation now. You're not in State College. What are you hearing from students or from other faculty about this report that came out today?

HARDIN: I'm hearing the same sentiments that I expressed earlier, grief and sadness and I would also say resolve that this can't happen again.

BLOCK: I've been talking with Penn State Associate Dean Marie Hardin. She's with the College of Communications. Dean Hardin, thank you very much.

HARDIN: Thank you, Melissa.

BLOCK: And, on our website, we've posted Louis Freeh's entire report looking into the child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State. You can find it at NPR.org.

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