A series of memos following Jerry Sandusky's arrest in the Penn State scandal show the PSU board of trustees and new university president Rodney Erickson were focused primarily on donor funding and hushing up the scandal more than the abuse that took place on school grounds.
Four memos sent Nov. 14-18 and released to The AP show Penn State scrambling to get control of the narrative less than two weeks after their former assistant coach was arrested, with little to no mention of the internal investigation into the charges then underway.
Penn State Scandal Aftermath
The child sex abuse scandal of 2011 impacted more than Jerry Sandusky and his charity The Second Mile: it is also implicated multiple members of the PSU administrators and faculty.
Two Penn State administrators, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, were charged with lying to a grand jury and failing to report suspected child abuse.
Graham Spanier, President Erickson's predecessor, was ousted because of the scandal, and beloved head coach Joe Paterno was fired from the Penn State football team.
'We are taking control of the narrative.'
In the first memo, issued nine days after Sandusky was charged, President Rodney Erickson told PSU's board of trustees that the PR teams of Penn State and its football program were working hard to align our messages, and had already received positive feedback from recent network interviews.
This is another indication that we are taking control of the narrative of our story, Erickson wrote.
In order to better control that narrative, however, Penn State's new president recommended intense monitoring of social media as well as news sites.
In a memo released Nov. 14, Erickson noted that blogs, tweets, news stories, Facebook postings, YouTube videos etc. had declined by 90 percent over the last four days.
In another memo, dated Nov. 18, Erickson attached some talking points when dealing with donors, understandably upset that some of their money went to support a man accused of molesting at least ten young boys.
Erickson recommended that the 47-member board of trustees approve a message to unhappy donors emphasizing other graduates' support for Penn State University.
The overwhelming majority of our leading donors have made public statements affirming their faith in the university and its future, one of the talking points read. Some sections even recommended reminding donors that they wouldn't get their funding back, according to the memos given to the Associated Press.
Following the Nov. 18 memo, Penn State saw the number of donors and gifts to the university rise significantly. $1.1 million in total donations were offered in November 2010; in 2011, the amount was $3.1 million.
'Remorse, Humility, Resolve'
A final objective of the memos, however, was to focus on America's perception of PSU's feelings on the Sandusky revelations, while balancing the appropriate emotions with an emphasis on moving past the scandal.
Remorse, humility and resolve were what vice president for university relations Bill Mahon recommended, while Chairman Steve Garban and Vice Chairman John Surma emphasized confidentiality within the board, emphasizing that a lack of secrecy could lead to a confused public message.
It is critical that we show that we are moving forward under the leadership of President Erickson, Mahon wrote. Please be sure that there is broad understanding that he is the president, not the interim president.
More Memos Withheld From Press
The four PSU memos were obtained through a public records request filed Nov. 22 with the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Penn State, as a university, is largely exempt from that law, and has declined requests for infromation as its internal investigation into the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal continues.
University spokeswoman Annemarie Mountz said Erickson's memos continued after Nov. 18, but declined to hand them over to The AP.
Mountz said the memos released to the press showed Erickson focusing on communication, reaching out to the PSU community, and appointing new leadership, along with [working] to reinforce all the positive elements.
Penn State President Rodney Erickson is expected to meet with alumni next week to discuss the child sex abuse scandal. The town-hall style meetings will be held in Pittsburgh on Jan. 11, Philadelphia on Jan. 12, and in Manhattan on Jan. 13.
Jerry Sandusky, who plans to plead not guilty, is currently awaiting trial for over 40 counts of abuse. Curley and Schultz continue to deny the allegations against them.