The Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees announced Wednesday evening that after 16 years Graham Spanier, president of the university, would be removed from his position. He was at one point a Stony Brook University administrator.
The decision comes in the wake of an evolving scandal involving Jerry Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator for the Penn State football team. According to a Grand Jury report released on Nov. 4, Sandusky allegedly sexually abused at least eight minor boys over the course of 15 years. He met the boys through The Second Mile, a charity he founded for at-risk children. Sandusky has been arrested and charged with 40 criminal counts.
“It is in the best interests of the university to have a change in leadership to deal with the difficult issues we are facing,” said John Surma, the vice-chairman of the board of trustees. “Penn State has always strived for honesty, integrity and the highest moral standards in all of our activities. We promise you that we are committed to restoring public trust to our university.”
Joe Paterno, head football coach since 1966, was also relieved of his position by the board.
Spanier, a sociologist and family counselor, came to Stony Brook in 1982 as the vice-provost of curriculum, instruction and advisement and later became the vice-provost of undergraduate studies. He held the position until 1986 when he left to take a job as vice-president of undergraduate affairs at Oregon State University.
Norman Goodman, a sociology professor at Stony Brook and head of the committee who selected Spanier, said Spanier was responsible for improving the quality of advising for students and faculty and bringing athletics into student life.
According to Statesman articles from 1982 and 1983, Spanier was a member of a SUNY-wide committee named the “Task Force on Improving the Quality of Student Life within the University,” which studied the status of “recreational and competitive” sports on SUNY campuses, among other issues. The committee later suggested a restructuring of the Student Activity Fee to include an athletic fee. Spanier stated in the later article the change would put SUNY schools’ athletic funding in compliance with the NCAA bylaws.
According to the Grand Jury report, Spanier testified that Athletic Director Tim Curley and Senior Vice-President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz, came to him in 2002 to report an incident, which was witnessed by a graduate student, involving Sandusky and a young child in a locker room shower on campus. He denied that the two men said the incident was sexual. Spanier also denied knowing about a 1998 University Police Department investigation involving Sandusky in a similar situation.
Spanier has not been charged in the investigation. Curley and Schultz, however, face charges of perjury and failing to notify law enforcement of the alleged abuse.
“My heartfelt sympathies go out to all those who may have been victimized,” Spanier said in a written statement. “I would never hesitate to report a crime if I had any suspicion that one had been committed. The acts of no one person should define this university. Penn State is defined by the traditions, loyalty and integrity of hundreds of thousands of students, alumni and employees.”
Rhoda Selvin, former assistant vice-provost for undergraduate studies, remembered Spanier as someone who was very concerned about undergraduates and who listened to his staff members.
Goodman described Spanier as a kind and gentle person and said he was saddened by the news.
“Very hard to believe,” Goodman said in a phone interview. “[I am] convinced he would have taken action.”