Upset Penn St. alumni descend on president's meeting

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 12, 2012 8:28 PM
Upset Penn St. alumni descend on president's meeting

By Dave Warner

VALLEY FORGE, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - A group of Penn State alumni, rallying around former football star Franco Harris, descended on a meeting hosted by the school's president on Thursday to demand the resignation of the Board of Trustees.

In the latest attempt by the university to recover from a sex abuse scandal, President Rodney Erickson had planned to address around 600 alumni here at the second of three town hall meetings.

As school officials and alumni arrived for the meeting, however, they were greeted by a group calling itself "Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship" and invited to a rival meeting at the same hotel.

The invitation said it would feature former Penn State star running back Harris, later to earn fame as a Pittsburgh Steeler in the 1970s, and center on "real talk" about issues at the university.

It was just the latest sign of turmoil for a school that has been reeling since November when a state grand jury indicted former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on child sex abuse charges.

That was followed by the firing of legendary coach Joe Paterno, the indictment of two other high-ranking university officials on perjury charges, and the departure of university president Graham Spanier.

Erickson was making the second stop on a tour to talk with alumni. He appeared in Pittsburgh on Wednesday and will appear in Manhattan on Friday.

Former Penn State player Brian Masella handed out flyers in the hotel lobby. "Some people I know are very upset and angry," Masella told Reuters.

He said the dissident group wants more information on how decisions are being made, why Paterno was not given the chance to make his case before being fired, and what he views as an assumption of guilt before a trial is held.

"It is making a statement," he said of the meeting at the hotel. He added that the group aimed to "oust as many of the board (of trustee) members as possible."

A flyer the group provided accused trustees of failing to anticipate the risk the abuse scandal posed; of failing to communicate with the Penn State community, the media and the public; and failing to abide by state law and their own governance rules.

(Reporting By Dan Burns; Editing by Paul Thomasch)