PSU update: Gov. Corbett calls rioters 'knuckleheads'
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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's running coverage of all aspects of the Penn State child rape scandal as they develop. Please check back for updates throughout the day.
6:08 p.m.: From P-G reporter Laura Olson in State College.
After meeting with the Penn State University's trustees for several hours this afternoon, Gov. Tom Corbett was tight-lipped on what was discussed, but had a clear message to students on campus.
Calling "knuckleheads" those who rioted throughout downtown State College toppling a news van and several light poles, he urged student to remember that the nation's eyes are on their campus.
"I do not believe in your right to violence -- there is no such thing," Mr. Corbett said. "When you chant 'We are Penn State,' be sure that you are demonstrating Penn State at its best."
Student leaders on Thursday also condemned those violent responses during a midday rally.
Mr. Corbett, who was in charge of the state attorney general's office in 2009 when the child sex abuse investigation began, also said he supports the board of trustees' to sever ties with football head coach Joe Paterno and president Graham Spanier.
"Their actions caused me to not have confidence in their ability to lead," he said.
Those actions of a few should not tarnish the university's overall excellent reputation, he added, noting the thousands of excellent graduates that have come through the school's classrooms.
As he spoke, the board of trustees meeting at the Penn Stater conference center was ending and members exiting. Most of those departing the meeting also declined to comment on their discussions.
5:40 p.m.: From Jacob Quinn Sanders, breaking-news editor.
About 30 hours ago, Jerry Needel was just another frustrated alumnus of Penn State University.
Charges that former football team defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky sexually abused at least nine boys across 15 years and accusations that administrators and former head coach Joe Paterno covered up what they knew or simply didn't do enough left Mr. Needel angry and grieving and wondering how to help.
He talked with his wife at their home and with other Penn State alums. Their solution: proudtobeapennstater.com, a website unaffiliated with the university designed to raise $500,000 for the abuse victims -- roughly $1 for each of Penn State's 557,000 alumni. By 5:09 p.m. today, they had raised $27,299.
"There was a leadership void," Mr. Needel said. "I would have hoped that the university would have done this."
He didn't want to feel like he did. Sitting at home in Hoboken, N.J., his thoughts kept turning to State College, Pa.
Mr. Needel, 35, graduated from Penn State in 1998 and could not escape thinking about the scandal.
"I didn't want to talk about it anymore," he said. "We needed to do something. We needed to get our pride back."
He thought about partnering with a charity.
"Late on a Tuesday night I wondered what's a good charity, so I asked Google," he said.
He found RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. Impressed with the nonprofit's national scope and celebrity endorsements, he called.
"I went in there a random Penn State alumni with no connections," Mr. Needel said. "We had our first real conversation about this at noon yesterday."
The nonprofit blogged about the affiliation, linked to Mr. Needel's site and consented to use of its name and to allow the alums to collect donations through RAINN's own site.
Since the proudtobeapennstater.com site went live, Mr. Needel and his friends have raised almost $1,000 an hour, he said.
"Our hearts go out to the victims," they say on the website, "and now our actions will as well."
5:29 p.m.: From P-G reporter Molly Born.
State College police chief Thomas King has asked for extra security resources from other departments and from Penn State University for Saturday's football game against Nebraska.
Chief King said his force is currently looking at the potential concerns outside the stadium and in the downtown area, while Penn State police are making assessments of the stadium itself.
"Of course with the Nebraska game and the events of this past week that have unfolded, we're coordinating with the Penn State police and state police," he said.
Penn State University police chief Tyrone Parham said the university will ready its force as usual when playing host to a team at home.
"We'll be prepared like we do for all the previous home games," he said in an email to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Mr. Parham earlier told the Associated Press that his force is "taking extra precautions and has added additional resources for the game."
He did not answer questions regarding a specific safety plan, which University of Nebraska Regent Tim Clare of Lincoln, Neb., called for, or the nature of the precautions they plan to take.
Mr. Parham also didn't say whether assistant coach Mike McQueary's presence at the game will present any safety concerns or challenges for his force. The assistant coach witnessed an alleged sexual assault by Penn State former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky when he was a graduate assistant at the university.
Following the announcement of Joe Paterno's firing at around 10 p.m.
Wednesday, a crowd of 4,000 to 5,000 people began rioting in downtown State College, damaging and setting fire to vehicles and tearing down light posts and street signs, according to a State College police press release.
The protesters also rolled a news van and threw rocks and debris, injuring both police and citizens. State College Police dispersed pepper spray at the protesters when they determined injuries and property damage became out of control.
"Happy Valley is a pretty interesting place on a normal football Saturday," Mr. Clare told the Associated Press. "Given what's developed the last several days, particularly last night, we have a duty to ensure that our football student-athletes, staff, coaches and our fans are safe."
Mr. Clare did not immediately respond to an email and phone call.
1:56 p.m.: From P-G reporter Laura Olson in State College.
Urging his classmates not to let frustration guide their actions as the school begins to recover from last weekend's child sex abuse revelations, a student leader here is calling for unity and calm.
About 75 Penn State University students congregated in front of the Old Main administrative building at midday. There, student-body president TJ Bard urged them not to repeat the violent scenes that filled the streets surrounding campus last night after it was announced that the Board of Trustees fired head football coach Joe Paterno and accepted president Graham Spanier's resignation.
"We are what makes this university thrive," the 20-year-old junior from Waynesboro said. "We are the ones who must restore glory to Penn State."
Mr. Bard said he supported the Board of Trustees' decision to remove two of the school's larger-than-life figures, saying that he knows "they have the best interests of the university at heart."
Following his remarks, dozens of students gathered in a circle, singing the alma mater. As with similar rallies over the past few days, the group shouted the line, "may no act of ours bring shame."
Instead of directing their emotions to sidewalk demonstrations, student leaders are urging classmates and others to dress in blue for Saturday's football game to show support for victims of child abuse.
Senior Andrew Shaves, who listened to the student-body president speak, said the victims involved in the charges of sexual abuse against former football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky have been overlooked in the passionate reactions.
"We need to focus on those affected by it, and show them support," said Mr. Shaves, an aerospace engineering major from Buffalo.
"At least for the next few weeks, the name of Penn State is going to make people think of 'sex scandal,' but we can be known for a lot more than that at such a major university," he added. "It's really all in the students' hands."
1:05 p.m.: From P-G reporter Sadie Gurman.
Pennsylvania's two senators are rescinding their support of the nomination of embattled former football coach Joe Paterno for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the nation.
Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey nominated Mr. Paterno in September, writing in a letter to President Barack Obama that, "Coach Paterno over the years has shown tremendous character and loyalty. Throughout his time at Penn State, he has remained committed to reaching goals without sacrificing the ideals that are central to higher education."
This afternoon, the senators issued a statement saying that "in light of recent events, we are rescinding our support for the nomination."
They added: "We hope the proper authorities will move forward with their investigation without delay. Penn State is an important institution within our commonwealth. We should turn our attention to the victims of these atrocious crimes and ensure they get the help they need."
The Medal of Freedom is awarded for an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Centre, also nominated Mr. Paterno for the honor last year, but the coach did not make the final cut.
12:33 p.m.: From the P-G's Sharon Eberson, online features editor:
For a celebrity considered to be at the forefront of the Twitter-verse with more than 8 million followers, Ashton Kutcher is still learning the rules of celebrity tweeting, such as: Know all the facts before you tweet.
The "Two and a Half Men" star has apologized after putting up this tweet in support of Joe Paterno: "How do you fire Jo Pa? #insult #noclass as a hawkeye fan I find it in poor taste." When outraged tweeters began flooding his account with harsh "How could you?" messages, apparently informing him for the first time that the coach was fired amid a child sex scandal, Mr. Kutcher took down the initial tweet, apologized and vowed to cease and desist.
He first regrouped and tweeted: "As an advocate in the fight against child sexual exploitation, I could not be more remorseful for all involved in the Penn St. case."
He followed that by writing on his @aplusk Twitter page: "As of immediately, I will stop tweeting until I find a way to properly manage this feed. I feel awful about this error. Won't happen again."
12:05 p.m.: Statement from Penn State provost and interim university president Rodney Erickson.
This is one of the saddest weeks in the history of Penn State. It has been difficult to comprehend the horrific nature of the allegations that were revealed in the Attorney General's presentment last week. As a member of the Penn State community for 34 years, as a parent, and as a grandfather, I find the charges as they have been described to be devastating, and my heart goes out to those who have been victimized and their families. This is a terrible tragedy for everyone involved, and it will take some time to bring a measure of understanding and resolution to the community.
In addition to the legal process under way, Penn State's Board of Trustees has authorized a full investigation "...to determine what failures occurred, who is responsible, and what measures are necessary to insure that this never happens at our University again and that those responsible are held fully accountable." As those involved pursue their cases, I also urge you, as Penn Staters, to be patient, to avoid speculation, and to refrain from passing judgment until the facts are known.
As you are now aware, the Board of Trustees has asked me to serve as the interim president of Penn State effective immediately. I undertake these duties with a firm sense of resolve, and I ask for your support as we move forward. And move forward, we must and we will.
Penn State has a long and storied tradition that has endured for more than 150 years. Our roots are deep, our constitution is resilient, and the importance of our work is as vital today as it was last week -- perhaps even more so in the face of such adversity. We are 96,000 students, 46,000 employees, and more than a half a million alumni. We are 24 campuses across the Commonwealth and a World Campus. We are a university that is committed to its core values of honesty, integrity, and community. We are a university that will rebuild the trust and confidence that so many people have had in us for so many years.
Through your conduct every day, you can play a role in restoring the integrity, honor, and pride that have always characterized Penn State. I share your anger and sadness in this time, but always remember that your actions reflect on the entire Penn State community. Please set an example that will make us all proud. Moving forward is the only responsible course to take in the coming months. I ask for the full support of our faculty, students, staff, and alumni, and in return I will do my best to lead this institution through the challenges ahead.
Thank you for being a part of Penn State
11:33 a.m.: Bradley press conference ends.
11:30 a.m.: Bradley says he was unaware of Sandusky allegations in 2002, when then-graduate assistant and now assistant coach Mike McQueary told Paterno what he saw in a locker-room shower. Bradley said earler that "right now" he expects McQueary to coach Saturday.
11:27 a.m.: Bradley says he has not slept. Also has been advised by attorneys not to speak about Sandusky.
11:22 a.m.: Bradley: "Coach Paterno has meant more to me than anyone except my father."
11:20 a.m.: Bradley: "We have a responsibility to take care of our children."
11:16 a.m.: Bradley says it's up to the university if the Nittany Lions play another football game after Saturday's against Nebraska. Says he has mixed emotions taking the head coaching job under these circumstances. Called Paterno last night about 11 to talk. Spoke to players last night and this morning.
11:09 a.m.: Bradley says he is saddened by the allegations of child rape against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, whom he succeeded in that role in 2000. Declines to say what he knew about those allegations before they became public.
11:08 a.m.: Bradley says he was in his office watching film when he got the call to succeed Paterno.
11:06 a.m.: Acting Penn State athletics director Mark Sherburne says he wants to make senior players the focus of Saturday's game against Nebraska.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with all the victims who suffered," he says.
10:52 a.m.: Post-Gazette reporter Michael Sanserino, waiting for the press conference for 55-year-old interim head football coach Tom Bradley to begin: "At any other press conference, this would be called a zoo. But considering the chaos of the past few days, this is tame. Crowded, but tame." Sanserino is covering the press conference along with the P-G's Ron Musselman.
10:28 a.m.: Statement on the Penn State scandal from former Pennsylvania governor and U.S. Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge.
Along with my fellow Pennsylvanians and all Americans, I have been shocked and deeply saddened by the horrible tragedy at Penn State.
My heart goes out to the victims and their families and I join everyone in praying for their healing, with the hope that somehow their lives may be restored and renewed.
It is my hope and expectation that recent actions by state and federal authorities, as well as the Penn State Board of Trustees, will begin the very difficult process of determining all of the facts, helping all of the victims in need of support and justice, and ensuring that something like this never happens again.
9:09 a.m.:Statement from former Penn State University head football coach Joe Paterno on his firing:
I am disappointed with the Board of Trustees' decision, but I have to accept it.
A tragedy occurred, and we all have to have patience to let the legal process proceed. I appreciate the outpouring of support but want to emphasize that everyone should remain calm and please respect the university, its property and all that we value.
I have been incredibly blessed to spend my entire career working with people I love. I am grateful beyond words to all of the coaches, players and staff who have been a part of this program. And to all of our fans and supporters, my family and I will be forever in your debt.
First Published November 10, 2011 9:47 am