Penn State’s Leaders Didn’t Consider Stakeholders in Responding to the Sandusky Scandal

As horrible as the alleged crimes are that Jerry Sandusky is accused of committing, it’s even more shocking that Penn State University’s academic leadership, in particular President Graham Spanier, failed to keep Penn State’s board of trustees fully informed of what may have transpired and what academic officials told the grand jury.  Karen was interviewed today in the Pittsuburgh Tribune-Review about the lack of a comprehensive crisis response:

Other public relations mistakes — such as firing Paterno by phone, inflaming a mob of students who rioted in Happy Valley — suggest the school’s leaders acted before identifying all the stakeholders they needed to appease, said Karen Mishra, a business professor at Meredith College in Raleigh, who focuses on crisis management and is writing a book about that subject. Mishra taught at Penn State in the mid-1990s.

Erickson, the former provost who took over as Penn State president, started to remedy those early mistakes with a promise of openness and transparency and his three town hall meetings last week to answer alumni’s questions, Mishra said.

“You want to let people know, ‘We’re on top of this. Even if we don’t know everything, we’re going to get the answers quickly,'” Mishra said.

Many alumni, however, vented at Erickson about the university’s board of trustees. Erickson said Penn State is creating a website on which it will post online updates on the school’s response, including contracts for Erickson and football coaches, as well as those for outside consultants and lawyers. Those postings were supposed to come this week but are now expected next week, a spokeswoman said.

Full disclosure:  Karen and I were both business school professors at Penn State from 1992-1997, and have some dear friends who played for the football team during that period.