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Penn State President Barron "Appalled" by Latest "Media Frenzy" in Response Letter

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Eric Barron has a mic drop moment almost two years to the day after he took over the reins at Penn State.

Old Main. Under new (better) management.
Old Main. Under new (better) management.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

A few years ago, weary of all of the Sandusky-related coverage and all that it brought, we made an editorial decision at Black Shoe Diaries to not run stories related to IT, unless there was something incredibly newsworthy, or that we felt that we could bring fresh perspective to.  We know that many in the BSD community disagreed with this decision; that's okay. That's your prerogative. This is one of the reasons why, on Friday, we simply ran a roundup of some of the links related to the latest allegations, rather than a full, in-depth piece.

Today, however, I feel compelled to write. I feel compelled to write because for the first time in a long time, I feel as though our University has a President that has reacted to the latest "news reports" in the manner in which the University deserves.

President Barron released today an open letter in reaction to all of the reports that have surfaced over the past few days, and in it he says what so many in the community are thinking, that he is "appalled by the rumor, innuendo and rush to judgment that have accompanied the media stories surrounding these allegations," and that these days "people are convicted in the court of public opinion, only to find a different outcome when all the facts are presented." Indeed.

The full letter reads:

Dear Friends:

Over the past few days, allegations have surfaced from individuals who claim to be Sandusky victims and from unidentified individuals about the alleged knowledge of former University employees. None of these allegations about the supposed knowledge of University employees has been substantiated in a court of law or in any other process to test their veracity.

I want you to know I am appalled by the rumor, innuendo and rush to judgment that have accompanied the media stories surrounding these allegations. All too often in our society, people are convicted in the court of public opinion, only to find a different outcome when all the facts are presented.

In contrast, over the last two days we have worked to be diligent in reanalyzing the record of reports and depositions to ensure that our reactions and comments are both responsible and trustworthy.

First, the allegations related to Penn State are simply not established fact. The two allegations related to knowledge by Coach Paterno are unsubstantiated and unsupported by any evidence other than a claim by an alleged victim. They date from the 1970s. Coach Paterno is not alive to refute them. His family has denied them.

Second, we cannot find any evidence, related to a settlement or otherwise, that an alleged early assault was communicated to Coach Paterno. This raises considerable credibility issues as to this press report. Others cite assistant coaches that were witnesses or had knowledge – stating it as fact in headlines and text – even in the face of a denial and clear failure to corroborate from the individuals allegedly involved. Other stories are clearly incredulous, and should be difficult for any reasonable person to believe. We should not be rendering judgments about the actions of Coach Paterno or any other former employees of Penn State based on incomplete, sensationalized media accounts.

I can think of few crimes as heinous as the sexual assault of a child. We are, as individuals and as an institution, appalled by Sandusky’s actions, and unified in our commitment to prevention, treatment and education. I encourage you to visit this link for information on Penn State’s commitment.

Unfortunately, we can’t control the 24/7 news cycle, and the tendency of some individuals in social media and the blogosphere to rush to judgment. But I have had enough of the continued trial of the institution in various media. We have all had enough. And while Penn State cannot always comment on allegations that emanate from legal proceedings, I thought it was important to let you know my reaction to the media frenzy that has ensued over the past few days. I am appalled.

Sincerely,

Eric Barron
President

I'm loathe to say it's brave for the not-unpowerful, not unwealthy white male president of a very large research academic institution to come out and say this things against the tide of public opinion. But, in a very meaningful way, it is, and it's exactly what the Penn State community needs him to say. Whether anyone beyond the community hears the message and heeds it is another story.

I'm not incredibly hopeful on that front, as most have already made their minds up on this and are unwilling to see the many shades of grey that still, and likely will continue, to exist. It appears from the above statement that the University, under Barron's leadership, has and is continuing to do its due diligence in this matter to the best of their ability. Is it so much to ask that the media and what Barron so astutely calls the "blogosphere" wait to rush to judgment, and do the same?

Apparently, it is. And I, like Barron, am appalled.

But above all else, after reading this letter I'm left with one overarching feeling--where was this type of University leadership in the fall of 2011, and before, when Penn State needed it the most?