A day after Penn State announced the selection of Eric Barron as its new president, members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, are responding to his statement that patience is needed.
At an event announcing his appointment, Barron was asked what the proper role he sees for the legacy of former Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno.
“The wisest answer is to tell you to give me time,” Barron said. “I watched all of his great strengths as a faculty member and as a dean and as someone who loves this institution. But in my view, whatever we do, we have to make sure we do it with a high sense of dignity and honor and sometimes that takes time.”
SNAP, however, is urging the new president to move quickly.
“Patience in general is a good thing, but when people are suffering because of child sex crimes or cover-ups, patience is less than a positive response,” said SNAP member David Clohessy of St. Louis.
The group is asking Barron to urge any Penn State faculty or staff members who may have seen, suspected or suffered child abuse or cover-ups to call police right away. Barron will succeed Rodney Erickson, who was appointed on an interim basis following the ouster of former President Graham Spanier. Spanier is facing criminal charges that include his role in the alleged cover-up.
Clohessy said in many sex abuse cases there is a rush toward “healing” that to many victims feels like a “premature turning of the page.” Barron said healing the university is on his agenda, but Clohessy said that should be a lower priority.
“The first goal should be to heal the victims of Jerry Sandusky, and secondly to help prosecutors nail the men who ignored or concealed Sandusky’s crimes,” he said. “When those two jobs are finished then we think it’s time for Penn State officials to focus on healing the broader university itself.”
Clohessy said it’s easier for Penn State students, staff and alums to focus on the obvious loss around the football program and look away from the loss of the victims.
“The pain that Jerry Sandusky’s victims are going through is largely invisible to the Penn State community,” he said. “The struggles with the football program and the school’s reputation are not invisible. But we have to make sure that all of us don’t focus strictly on the visible hurt and that we go out of our way to be sensitive to the invisible hurt.”
Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz and ex-athletic director Tim Curley are all set to stand trial on charges they covered up Jerry Sandusky’s crimes. Clohessy said SNAP is urging Barron to work with prosecutors.
“In the long term that’s what brings true healing, when wrongdoers are brought to justice and are punished for their crimes,” he said.
The group has sent a copy of the statement to Barron. He will take over as president of Penn State in May.