With the current scandal surrounding the sexual abuse allegations by Penn State’s former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, it is crucial to observe how the University handled the situation from a PR standpoint. Some events stand out specifically in the beginning stages of the case that have continually failed for the University.
- Before the news of the grand jury investigation was made public, no official statement was made by Penn State until Sandusky was officially charged on November 5th with 40 accounts of sexual abuse against minors.
- As tensions began to increase surrounding the case, (former) President Graham Spanier canceled the school’s weekly football press conference without informing Joe Paterno, or giving a reason behind his actions. Both this lack of communication and lack of honesty are not a good way to maintain credibility.
- Joe Paterno made a personal statement explaining his intentions to retire. Unfortunately, he should not have made any comments to the media without legal counsel first, which ultimately led to him becoming the face of the scandal.
- Not even a day after this statement, the Board of Trustees announced that Paterno and Spanier would be relieved of their duties, effective immediately. As if they needed more negative attention, students responded by rioting on campus, with a news van turned on it’s side among other vandalism.
- Sandusky’s ironically named autobiography, “Touched” is still in the bookstore, and he and athletic director, Tim Curley are still receiving state-funded pensions.
While this entire situation is not even close to winding down, a consistent, honest message needs to be enforced before they dig an even deeper hole for their once sterling image to climb out of.
What would you have done if you were representing Penn State?
To read more details about the scandal, refer to Roy Burton’s article.