STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Penn State faculty members on Tuesday rejected a vote of no confidence in the university’s trustees, a symbolic measure that had sought to chastise the board for its handling of a child sex abuse scandal.
A motion calling for a special committee to investigate the trustees’ oversight also failed to garner sufficient support from the Faculty Senate, which met at the university’s main campus in State College.
The 32-member board of trustees has come under fire for its response to molestation allegations against a former assistant coach. The scandal that surfaced last fall led to the firings of the university president and longtime football coach Joe Paterno.
Supporters said a no-confidence vote would send a message to university leaders and stress the need for new governance. Opponents said that creating an adversarial relationship with trustees would undermine the faculty’s ability to influence change from within.
“Several of us have tried to work as individuals with the board, and that seems a more fruitful path,” Tramble Turner, an English professor at Penn State-Abington, said after the measure failed, 128-58.
The trustees elected new leadership from within their ranks on Friday. New board President Karen Peetz has promised reforms and more transparency in response to criticism that trustees have been too secretive.
Trustees also are undertaking their own probe into the case, led by former FBI director Louis Freeh. On Tuesday, some faculty questioned how impartial the probe will be since board members sit on the investigatory committee.
Still, faculty members voted 131-68 to reject a motion calling for the creation of a separate committee to investigate trustees’ oversight.
A plan for trustees and faculty to meet Tuesday was postponed because of Paterno’s recent death.
Big crowds were expected, starting with a 10-hour public viewing, which began on Tuesday afternoon at Pasquerilla Spiritual Center. Three days of public mourning were planned for the Penn State community in State College and beyond to say goodbye to the man who led the Nittany Lions to 409 wins over 46 years.
There is another public viewing today, and after that Paterno’s family will hold a private funeral and procession through State College.
On Thursday, the school’s basketball arena will be the site of a public service called “A Memorial for Joe.” Penn State was expecting a huge demand for seats and set a two-per-person limit on tickets.
Bitterness over Paterno’s firing has turned up in many forms, from online postings to a rewritten newspaper headline placed next to Paterno’s statue at the football stadium blaming the trustees for his death. A headline that read “FIRED” was crossed out and made to read, “Killed by Trustees.” Lanny Davis, lawyer for the school’s board, said threats have been made against the trustees.
Scott Paterno, however, stressed his father did not die with a broken heart and did not harbor resentment toward Penn State.
Penn State football players past and present filed past the closed casket of Joe Paterno at the campus spiritual center on Tuesday. Among those paying their respects was Mike McQueary, a key figure in the events that led to Paterno’s firing.
McQueary, then a graduate assistant for Penn State, went to Paterno in 2002 saying he had witnessed former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky assaulting a boy in the shower at the Penn State football building. Paterno relayed that to his bosses including the head of campus police but university trustees felt he should have done more, and it played into their decision to fire the longtime coach on Nov. 9. That came four days after Sandusky was arrested on multiple child sex-abuse counts.