After charges were filed against former Penn State President Graham Spanier on Thursday, many student leaders said they were initially surprised.
The charges Spanier faces include perjury, failure to report suspected child abuse to authorities, endangering the welfare of children and the obstruction of justice.
Former University Park Undergraduate Association President TJ Bard said the charges against Spanier were initially surprising since it is almost the one-year anniversary since charges were filed against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
“[Spanier] has been someone I looked up to my entire career at Penn State,” Bard (senior-political science and economics) said. “It is tough to swallow that he is up against these charges. I think last year’s charges were much more surprising though, because no one saw them coming.”
Former UPUA president Christian Ragland said it is important to remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
“But if it is true and the attorneys are pursuing this, I pray for justice,” Ragland, Class of 2011, said.
Ragland served as president in the 2010-2011 academic year.
Logan Cawley, president of Lion Ambassadors, wrote in an email that he thinks the current situation is a tough one, because currently the primary information is from the Attorney General and Spanier’s legal team.
“While the details at hand are obviously conflicting, I believe that it is important for the community surrounding this issue to respect the legal process and maintain a sense of decorum,” Cawley said. “At this point we will not know what is truth until both parties have been brought before a court of law.
UPUA President Courtney Lennartz said that if the charges are proven true, it is important to recall on what has happened over the past year.
“It is important to remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty,” Lennartz said. “We should learn from the mistakes that were made and move forward.”
Although Lennartz said she thinks the university will learn and grow from the mistakes, Bard said he feels Penn State will struggle through another difficult November.
“I think it [will be] another rocky road for Penn Staters this November,” Bard said. “It will take time to see what happens over the course of the trial.”
UPUA Vice President Katelyn Mullen said students should not let their pride for the university be affected by Spanier’s situation.
“I really think it is important that the students know all the accomplishments we have had so far,” Mullen said. “I don’t want what happened with Spanier to affect how the students feel about the university.”
UPUA Chief of Staff John Zang said that students will be somewhat affected by the charges.
“Students will be affected to a point, obviously, because we are all Penn State students, but it will be more of a superficial effect,” Zang said. “Most students after last November have come to terms with what has happened with our administrator’s failures. It is not going to reflect well on our university’s administration.”
If justice is served, students will have the opportunity to recreate themselves, Ragland said.
“If I were still in leadership, this gives an opportunity to reform, rebuild and get rid of what holds you back,” Ragland said. “We can’t take away from the great things Spanier did for the university, but now it is not about him. It is about survivors and showing them that the university is trying to move on.”
Several past and present students of the Presidential Leadership Academy deferred comment.
Collegian staff writer Brandon Nicklas contributed to this report.