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September 18, 2012 2:26 PM Penn State’s Latest Rally: Demanding the Board Resign

By Daniel Luzer

Students and alumni at Penn State University are demanding that the school’s entire board of trustees resign. Their feeling is that the board acted inappropriately in firing the school’s beloved coach in reaction to the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal last year.

According to an article by Anne Danahy in the Centre Daily Times:

Hours before the Nittany Lions’ kickoff Saturday, Penn State fans gathered for a rally on the steps of Old Main with a message for university leaders: Step down.
[Alumnus Franco Harris, who played football under Joe Paterno] said Penn State has stood nearly 160 years, but the board’s actions from one night will be remembered: “It only took one night, just one night for the B.O.T. to lay a path of destruction never before seen on any college campus. One night, Nov. 9, we will always remember that,” he said, referring to the day the board fired Paterno as head coach and Graham Spanier as president.

Well he might always remember the night of November 9 but the rest of the world is far more likely to remember the events leading up to November 9, in which the world became aware that Spanier and Panterno knew about, and did not act on, allegations that Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky repeatedly sexually abused young boys, often on the Penn State campus itself.

Still, the resignation of the school’s board of trustees is not an entirely bad idea. The board of trustees at a college is in charge of all that goes on at that institution. The president answers to the board. The football coach does, too.

While it’s true the board is within its rights to fire anyone it wants, and it doesn’t appear that members of the board knew about the Sandusky problem prior to last year, the problem is still the board’s fault, at least in part. According to a piece by Tyler Kingkade in the Huffington Post:

[Former FBI Director Freeh’s report on the scandal at Penn State] said the Board failed in its oversight of the senior university officers and did not create an atmosphere “where the president and senior officers felt accountable to the board.”

The buck stops with these guys. In July the National Collegiate Athletic Association gave out extensive punishmentsto Penn State, punishments that adversely affected students and staff entirely unaffiliated with Sandusky.

If they suffer, shouldn’t the board endure punishment too? They’re ultimately the people in charge of the institution.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer