Ousted Penn State University president Graham Spanier insisted that he wouldn’t have ignored child sexual-abuse complaints as the school’s top administrator because he was beaten repeatedly as a child by his father, his lawyer told The Associated Press on Monday.
Spanier received regular “disciplinary beatings” by his father as a teen, and had to have his nose straightened several times, lawyer Peter Vaira said. The abuse was never sexual, Vaira said.
Spanier said in a letter dated July 23 to the school’s board of trustees that he would not have turned “a blind eye” to the victims of convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky because of Spanier’s own abuse history. Sandusky, the former assistant football coach, is awaiting sentencing for crimes involving 10 boys, both on and off campus.
“It is unfathomable and illogical to think that a respected family sociologist and family therapist, someone who personally experienced massive and persistent abuse as a child, someone who devoted a significant portion of his career to the welfare of children and youth … would have knowingly turned a blind eye to any report of child abuse or predatory sexual acts directed at children,” Spanier said in the letter.
The letter was obtained by the AP through someone close to the case. The person did not want to be identified because the person was not authorized to release the letter.
In reaction to unprecedented NCAA penalties announced today against Penn State, acting athletic director David Joyner, said, “We are deeply disappointed that some of our leaders could have turned a blind eye to such abuse, and agree that the culture at Penn State must change.”
Spanier’s successor Rodney Erickson vowed that the school would.
“We must create a culture in which people are not afraid to speak up, management is not compartmentalized, all are expected to demonstrate the highest ethical standards …,” he said.
University officials had no comment today on Spanier’s letter.
Spanier said he does not recall receiving any emails about a 1998 report and subsequent investigation that Sandusky had showered with a boy on Penn State’s campus. And he said he did not understand the 2001 shower incident observed by then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary was sexual.
The Patriot-News first reported on the letter.
A recent internal report on the Sandusky scandal blasted Spanier, former coach Joe Paterno and others for failing to report the abuse complaints to authorities.
Spanier calls the university investigation conducted by ex-FBI chief Louis Freeh “egregious in its incomplete and inaccurate reporting” of Spanier’s discussions last year — as a grand jury pursued the Sandusky case — with trustees, the university’s top counsel and others.
“The report is full of factual errors and jumps to conclusions that are untrue and unwarranted,” Spanier wrote.
Two university officials — former Vice President Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley — are awaiting trial on charges of perjury and failure to report child abuse. Spanier has not been charged in the case.