Members respond to BoT Chairman Karen Peetz’s message to alumni on July 18, 2012 on the Freeh Report
I just received your email that begins the process of moving forward and the encouragement it offers. I further understand the difficult position the Board is in, as this whole situation raced from zero to sixty in a few seconds back in November. I won’t get into my views on what could or couldn’t have been done better back then or since, as I can certainly understand that intense pressure often makes people say and do things far outside their norm. I certainly hope that is the case, as the resumes of some of the people on the Board would clearly indicate they are able to do better. I further recognize and understand the impossible balance that must be taken to ensure the respect for the victims, as well as the potential damages their lawsuits can expose our University to. I further have no concept of the politics at play here, both internally and with the Pennsylvania government.
That said, I am writing to ensure you read and understand what is captured in this article – it is does a great job of crisply articulating the situation and how it so quickly got out of hand: http://www.johnziegler.com/editorials_details.asp?editorial=220 (to be honest upfront – it is probably a real 4-5 minutes of reading). Please take the time to read it, digest it and please do something as a result, as it is what inspired me to write. I have started other emails/letters in the past, but this pushed me to take the next step. I continue to be amazed at the regular, ongoing missteps by the BOT that continue to make the situation worse. I am really just embarrassed that such a talented group can not re-group and set a course that both manages the “victim” situation, their own reputations and the greater good of the University.
I am beyond disappointed at the University’s lack of response in the media. The media has to date – as this article points out – scripted the entire dialogue and there continues to be almost no response other than apologizes. Again, as noted above, I understand the delicate balance, but the University is paying $6.5 million to ensure we have the best and brightest figuring out those messages that make us more than apologists. I also understand that the University paid for the Freeh Report, but that doesn’t mean that you need to fall in step that every item in the report is correct and you agree with it. People and Corporations regularly pay for consultants to come in to help with a situation, but they rarely say “thank you and 100% of what you said was true and we will implement”. Leaders need to stand up to what is helpful, what could be corrected, but also let the media understand what is wrong with the report. I could provide numerous analogies, but everyone experiences buyer’s remorse and that “report” provides a good deal of that. More disappointing, but in step with the missteps so far, has been the management – or rather mismanagement -of its’ contents.
I feel like what is missing here is an understanding of branding. I use branding only to hopefully get some understanding, though I firmly believe Joe has been mis-characterized and not because I am blind to the situation – quite the contrary, I have read nearly everything out there that hasn’t been sensationalized. Joe Paterno was a key element of the Penn State brand – that is a fact and I will leave my views out of this. Suffice it to say though – and that this article articulates – he is being made the central scapegoat. His family is forced to defend him and I think they are the only ones drawing the right balance, but you have made them an island. They are doing a great job of presenting facts and are just looking for ALL the facts to come out. I love their matter of fact assessment and believe there is FAR more to this story than has been written. To continue to let him be the punching bag, is to let the Penn State brand continue to be the punching bag. I am not suggesting he was flawless, or that there isn’t some culpability there, but you and your PR firm could readily step to his defense and thereby step to the defense of the Penn State brand. It would go a long way to repairing major factions across the alumni and most importantly do it using facts and an understanding the media has not provided. Instead his legacy and his family continue to be kicked to the curb by the BOT at a pace that only the media is beating you to. His dedication, moral code and what he did for the University deserves better. I do understand Penn State is FAR more than Joe Paterno, but he is central to our brand, our pride and for many, our experience at the University and no one seems to understand this. Fixing this rift, fixes many of the issues your alumni base is experiencing.
So, my summary, is please take a step back and set a course for our University that both manages the “victim” situation, your personal reputations and the greater good of the University. Please demand something/anything from our well paid PR firm (s) and demand more from the Board that you now are the leader of.
Thank you for your time.
For the Glory,
Mark Z., BS, BA 1985