Penn State’s standing among grads improves after Sandusky scandal
February 18, 2016 11:05 PM
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
Former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky arrives for a hearing in October at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa.
By Bill Schackner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
An alumni official called the results positive, perhaps especially so for a university that has been through a devastating scandal from which wounds are still healing.
Results released Thursday from a survey of the Penn State University Alumni Association membership suggest the school’s standing among its graduates has improved. Eighty-seven percent of alumni who responded said they hold positive views about their alma mater, up 5 percentage points from May 2012.
The survey found that 86 percent said they would advocate for Penn State and that 76 percent suggested they have a substantial sense of pride in their degree.
The May 2012 survey was conducted not long after former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s November 2011 arrest for a string of child sexual assaults. That arrest and fierce criticism over the school’s handling of the matter led within days to the departure of top university officials, including president Graham Spanier.
The survey conducted annually since 2012 is intended to help the association better understand member views on myriad topics, officials said. Those expressing positive views cited reasons from academics to community outreach to athletics and interest among job recruiters in Penn State degree-holders.
As for where Penn State is in efforts to move past the scandal, “I don’t know if it tells that story,” said Paul Clifford, the association’s chief executive officer, noting that individual views vary. “I think the story it tells is that Penn State alumni [collectively] are proud of their alma mater and proud of their degree.”
Though down in numbers from previous surveys, those saying they felt Penn State is on the wrong track accounted for 26 percent of the responses and included concerns over the board of trustees and treatment of late head football coach Joe Paterno, among various other issues.
Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano, asked about the survey, said this year’s version appeared to exclude a question that had wide support in past years — recognizing Mr. Paterno. “It’s conspicuous in its absence,” he said.
As in past years, Penn State commissioned StrategyOne, a consulting firm, for the polling.
The association provided the firm with 30,000 records selected at random from alumni for whom the association had a phone number or email address, officials said. A total of 1,294 individuals responded, with 936 completing it online and 358 on the phone.
The association said the survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.72 percent in 95 out of 100 cases.
Penn State president Eric Barron said in a statement accompanying the survey that its results reflect the strength of alumni and show their “commitment to quality and excellence in education all endeavors.”
The association has 177,000 members. The full survey results can be accessed at http://www.alumni.psu.edu/about_us/2016-alumni-opinion-survey.
Bill Schackner: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1977 and on Twitter: @BschacknerPG.
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