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When Current PSU President Rodney Erickson Bent The Rules For Jerry Sandusky

On November 9, the same day Joe Paterno was fired and students rioted in the streets of State College, the Penn State Board of Trustees removed school president Graham Spanier. In his place they appointed Provost Rodney Erickson as interim president. A week later, they removed the "interim" tag. Just two months after that, Erickson surprisingly announced he would step down, effective June of 2014. Perhaps his brief overlap with Jerry Sandusky is one reason why.

Thirteen years on, not even Erickson was spared an appearance in the Freeh Report. When Jerry Sandusky was semi-forced into retirement in 1999, he wanted a title—something to forever associate him with Penn State. Graham Spanier promised an "emeritus" rank to Sandusky, if he was willing to step away quietly.


Emeritus is a title granted only to retiring faculty members who held very specific positions: professors, librarians, scientists, deans. Sandusky was only an assistant professor. But there was another way: the School President could "grant or deny emeritus rank on an 'exception basis.'" Gary Schultz prepared an official request, and it was delivered to new Provost Rodney Erickson, who had just taken the job eight months before.

Erickson asked his staff to find if there was any precedent for granting emeritus status in a situation like Sandusky's. Vice Provost Robert Secor said there was not:

"If this really happened (and without particulars it is hard to know), it may have been way past, and not so terribly helpful if we don't have a specific precedent to point to. But we are in a bind. Aparently Graham told Sandusky that we would do this."


Erickson wrote back, in part (emphasis mine):

Let's go ahead and grant it if Graham has already promised it. We can hope that not too many others take that careful notice.


There is no evidence that Erickson knew about the allegations against Sandusky, but when interviewed by the Freeh Group, Erickson said he felt "uneasiness" about the decision to grant him the title. No matter: Sandusky shortly thereafter became Assistant Professor Emeritus of Physical Education Jerry Sandusky.

Read all our coverage of the Freeh report here.

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