Penn State President Graham Spanier resigns in wake of scandal
His support eroded quickly, especially after he offered 'unconditional support' to charged administrators.
Penn State University president Graham Spanier speaks at a university board of trustees meeting at the Penn State-Lehigh Valley campus in Center Valley in July, 2011. (April Bartholomew/The Morning Call / July 10, 2012)
Spanier's departure ends his 15-year stint at the helm of one of the nation's largest universities, and came hand-in-hand with the Penn State board of trustees' decision to sack Joe Paterno just hours after he announced his own retirement.
In a news conference with nearly the full board in attendance, trustee John P. Surma said his colleagues unanimously decided it was in the best long-term interests of the university to change leadership.
"We handled it the best way we could," he said.
Spanier will be terminated on the terms of his contract, which Surma said will likely include some settlement agreement.
Executive Vice President and Provost Rodney Erickson will take over as interim president.
Unlike Paterno, who garnered the support of the student body, Spanier's exit seemed inevitable almost from the time it was learned that he was told about a 2002 incident in which former assistant football Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulted a 10-year-old boy in a university locker room shower.
Sandusky on Saturday was hit with a 40-count grand jury presentment that alleges he used his position as a former Penn State coach and head of the Second Mile children's charity to win the trust of eight boys he allegedly molested over a 15-year period.
Two other Penn State officials, athletic director Timothy Curley and Senior Vice President for Business and Finance Gary Schultz, were charged with perjury and failure to report the alleged child abuse.
Spanier has not been charged, but has met a crush of criticism from fans, students, parents and news media who believe, like Schultz and Curley, Spanier could have stopped Sandusky and prevented years of sexual abuse of young boys.
In handmade signs and online petitions, students and alumni have called for Spanier's ouster in marked contrast to cheers of support they gave Paterno when they stood outside the beloved coach's home on Tuesday night then marched en masse on the streets of State College.
The campus of more than 40,000 students sleepwalked through Paterno's announcement, with students still headed to class but barely believing what they were hearing. Wednesday afternoon saw no big rallies like the one outside Paterno's home Tuesday, but the streets and student union were abuzz with talk that by next year, the man they know as JoePa would be gone.
Nearly two dozen members of the Blue Band, the university's marching band, joined for an impromptu performance at noon outside Old Main, the seat of Penn State's administrative power. They played the alma mater, the fight song, the cherished tunes.
Tuba player Josh Helsley said the performance wasn't planned, but as everything on campus seemed to be falling apart, the performance came together with the help of text messages and cellphone calls. They weren't looking to criticize. They just needed to play.
"There's so much more to Penn State that the outside world doesn't see," Helsley said. "This is how I can show my support."
Spanier's departure comes as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced an investigation on whether Penn State's handling of the 2002 allegations violated the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics.
Under the Clery Act, named after a Lehigh University student who was killed by a fellow student, colleges and universities are required to disclose the number of criminal offenses on campus that are reported each year.
Spanier's standing in the public eye now stands in sharp contrast to the public image he has cultivated over the years, that of an endearingly quirky intellectual and effective administrator.
He performs magic, plays washboard in a Dixieland band and, in a show of common-touch solidarity with students, sleeps in a student dormitory for a few days at the outset of each school year.