Letter: PSU board must accept responsibility to rights the wrongs, former football player and Harford resident says

Warren Hartenstine is a Penn State graduate who played football for Coach Joe Paterno. He is a long-time resident of Harford County and a respected member of the local business community. He wrote a letter to the chair of the Penn State Board of Trustees. A copy was provided for publication.

Ms. Karen B. Peetz

Chairman, Penn State Board of Trustees

Chairman Peetz:

I know something about childhood sexual abuse personally, professionally and as a volunteer.

I know something about Jerry Sandusky and the incredulity that enabled him. He was my student recruiter and then teammate. He worked hard and was a uniquely "golly gee" guy who gave the impression that he would never do anything his mother told him was wrong. Former players were proud to be involved with the Second Mile. He was the kind of coach for whom most of his players would have "cut off their right arms."

I know something about Coach [Joe] Paterno. The Paterno family description of him as "…tough, aggressive, opinionated and demanding" is accurate if not understated. Others may think it mythical, but these traits applied at least as much to the classroom as to the football field. The contrast between the coach who seemed incapable of accepting what we thought was our best on the field with the caring person who embraced us as former players as well as our families and friends is a dichotomy that can be difficult to reconcile.

I think I know something about students who play football. Like me, estimates are that something like 70 percent came from moderate income families. All must meet standards that predict with a level of certainty academic success at one of the most academically demanding public universities in the U.S. All aspire to be good enough to make it to the next level, but also understand that college is college and performance in the classroom is a prerequisite for the opportunity to perform on the field. A sample of football lettermen indicates that, when the current group of +/-100 leaves Penn State:

• 18 will be selected as All Americans

• 4 will earn Academic All American recognition, a recognition begun in 1965

• 30 will be drafted, begun in 1960, by a team in the NFL

Their careers will have a significant impact on their communities:

• 23 will become K-12 teachers and administrators

• 4 will be work in higher education

• 10 will become doctors, dentists, lawyers and similar professionals

• 11 will become business owners

• 4 will lead corporations as chairmen, presidents and CEOs

• 27 will be corporate vice presidents, senior managers and directors

• 4 will found and/or lead charitable organizations

• 3 will become public officials

I think I know something about the current crisis. I now know that one man has been convicted of using Penn State and its football program for horrific acts that corrupted lives and shut out happiness for lifetimes. It appears that as many as four Penn State leaders may have enabled these acts, however beguiling the perpetrator. In abdicating its obligations as the final arbiter of independence from personal interest, stewardship of institutional integrity and good governance, the Board of Trustees – having been co-opted to ignore these actions – empowered these individuals and, directly, contributed to the terrible harm of these young people and their families.

It now appears that the +/-100 members of the football team, along with the participants in 30 other athletic programs the football program supports, may well now bear the brunt of the extended punishment. Each one strives for excellence and their contributions to Penn State's stature as an institution of higher education is enormous. Not one contributed to the failure of governance, institutional ethics or oversight. But while each and every one of these individuals is totally innocent, it appears to be a certainly that each and every one will suffer life-changing, negative consequences. Incredibly, punishing these innocents does nothing to cure past horrors and, incredibly, exponentially expands harms done to young innocents.

Should those who empowered and enabled these horrific acts either by commission or omission be held harmless while those who entrusted their futures to Penn State and did no wrong suffer a life-long punishment in their stead?

Arguably the highest of all missions for all institutions of learning is the protection of students and enhancement of their futures. Were the Board of Trustees to cease the piecemeal actions that only deepen the crisis of confidence and embarrassment; establish a rational and orderly transition; recognize its responsibility not to compound its past failure to protect the innocent by further damaging those whose lives they are to protect and enhance; and set a date for their own termination; I firmly believe much of the offense to the public and Penn State community's sense of justice and propriety would begin to heal. This Board of Trustees can fulfill its promise to protect and educate through an acceptance of its responsibility for the past, and for avoiding further harm to innocent students and the Penn State community in the immediate future.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Warren R. Hartenstine, '67, '68sg

Havre de Grace

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