Penn State pledges $1.5M to groups

Updated: December 1, 2011, 5:34 PM ET
Associated Press

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State officials have vowed to increase transparency and ethical standards and plan to donate $1.5 million in bowl proceeds to a pair of sex-crime advocacy organizations in the wake of shocking sex-abuse allegations levied against the school's once-revered assistant football coach.

University president Rod Erickson promised the donation Thursday morning, a day after he and other administrators faced pointed questions at a student-organized town hall forum.

Erickson told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday that the Big Ten bowl revenue, which usually goes back to the athletic department, will go to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

"This presents an excellent opportunity for Penn State to raise the national visibility of this issue," Erickson said. "Our students and fans are focused on a cause to play for, to cheer for."

The Wednesday night forum came on the heels of fresh sex abuse allegations against former coach Jerry Sandusky, who was accused in a lawsuit Wednesday of sexually abusing a young boy more than 100 times after meeting him through the charity the coach founded in the 1970s.

Authorities have charged Sandusky with sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year span, and the state police commissioner has criticized school leaders for failing to do more to alert authorities to the allegations. The ex-coach has acknowledged that he showered with boys but denied molesting them.

Ethics would be raised "to a new level so that everyone at the university understands not just the legal thing to do, but the moral thing to do, so that we learn to do the right thing the first time, every time," Erickson told about 450 attendees at a crowded auditorium at the student union building.

Students appeared grateful to get answers more than three weeks after Sandusky was charged Nov. 5, hopeful it would aid in the arduous healing process.

"I think this is a good start for a lot of good things that can happen at the university," said student Andrew Comes, 21, following the two-hour forum. "It's a singularly bad event, but there can still be positive repercussions and good things happening from it."

An overflow crowd watched the forum in another auditorium at the student union, while students at Penn State branch campuses could also email questions.

The scandal has resulted in the departures of coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier. Athletic director Tim Curley has been placed on administrative leave, and vice president Gary Schultz, who was in charge of the university's police department, has stepped down.

Schultz and Curley are charged with lying to the grand jury and failure to report to police. They also maintain their innocence and have a preliminary hearing later this month.

Erickson told reporters after the forum that Spanier was currently on sabbatical, and that as a tenured faculty member would have the right to teach, if he so desired.

Erickson reiterated there was no truth to Internet-fueled rumors that Paterno's statue outside Beaver Stadium would be removed, or that the Paterno name would be removed from the campus library, for which the Paterno family has donated millions.

"At some appropriate time down the road, I'm sure there will be an opportunity to also reflect on the many years of service Joe and (wife Sue Paterno) provided the university and the many good things that they've done for Penn State," Erickson said, eliciting brief applause.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press