NBC10 Philadelphia - Lu Ann Cahn
The Penn State Board of Trustees held a press conference on Thursday regarding the report delivered by Louis Freeh. NBC10's Lu Ann Cahn was at the press conference.
Penn State's trustees said Thursday they accept responsibility for failures of accountability in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal but that no members of the board would step down in the wake of an independent investigation report that chided them.
“We are accountable for what's happened here,” trustee Kenneth Frazier said.
“Our hearts remain heavy and we are deeply ashamed.”
The trustees spoke hours after the release of a report from special investigator Louis Freeh, who concluded beloved late coach Joe Paterno and other top administrators covered up Sandusky's conduct to avoid bad publicity.
The Freeh investigation concluded Paterno, university President Graham Spanier, Vice President Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley failed to protect the welfare of children over a 14-year span beginning with a 1998 abuse complaint involving Sandusky.
It faulted Spanier for failing to keep the board informed of the Sandusky investigation but also found the board failed to take action once it became aware of a grand jury probe.
Trustees chairwoman Karen Peetz said no current members of the board would step down, however.
“A few Trustees already stepped down, a natural change that happens every year,” she said.
The lengthy tenure of board members has been an area of criticism for some alumni angered by the board's actions in the frantic weeks following Sandusky's arrest in November _ including the firing of Paterno.
“We were satisfied to see that the Board of Trustees was called out for their lack of oversight and leadership and engagement in such critical matters,” said Maribeth Roman Schmidt, spokeswoman for Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, an alumni group that called for the entire board to resign.
Freeh's report found that Spanier during his 16-year tenure “discouraged discussion and dissent.”
“To have a rotating group of 32 people, over more than a decade, act like that's OK, I think that's an enormous problem,” Schmidt said.
The report elevated Paterno's complicity in the scandal to the same level as Curley and Schultz, who are each charged with perjury and failure to report suspected abuse.
Peetz said the result is that Paterno's ``61 years of excellent service to the university is now marred.''
Paterno's family denied the legendary coach took part in any cover up and didn't know Sandusky was a pedophile.
The Freeh report portrayed Penn State as a place where a group of powerful figures exerted too much influence. But when asked if the football program had too much power under Paterno, President Rodney Erikson downplayed that suggestion.
“I think that we should be careful that we don't paint the entire football program over a long period of time with a single brush...these things happen in schools, in churches, in youth camps...all over,” he said.
The trustees said they will use recommendations from Freeh's report to set a course that will prevent such abuse from ever happening again at Penn State.
“Penn State's best days are in front of us,” Erickson said.