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Penn State Issues Plea for Civility

by on September 05, 2014 7:25 AM

Had enough of the sometimes harsh debate over the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Joe Paterno's firing and the actions of the Penn State Board of Trustees?

It appears that's the case for Penn State's leadership.

Early Friday morning, with many alumni and Penn State supporters heading back to the university for the season's first home football game, the university released a letter calling for the return of respect and civility.

The letter, titled, " A Message From the Leadership of Penn State" addresses the issues by saying, "There are honest disagreements on fundamental issues related to whether our institution acted appropriately, how our institution handled a crisis, and whether the sanctions that resulted are appropriate."

The message predicts that the full story will likely never be known and it's equally likely that people will never be able to reach a consensus. It goes on to say, "The question is whether a lack of civility in discussing these issues will create a deeper divide, one that alters the remarkable bond that exists between all those who are a part of the Penn State community."

The letter which appears in its entirety below is signed by members of the President's Council, members of the Academic Leadership Council, members of the University Faculty Senate's Advisory Committee, University Staff Advisory Council Executive Officers and student leadership.

The university also released a video featuring Penn State President Eric Barron:

 

 

A Message from the Leadership at Penn State

September 5, 2014

Dear friends:

For decades, few universities could match the considerate manner in which Penn Staters treated both friend and opponent. In particular, to see someone wearing a Penn State T-shirt while traveling was a guarantee of a common bond and warm conversation no matter how distant the location. Today, that rather remarkable bond is under stress.

Unfortunately, there are many examples in every university where differences of opinion lead to incivility. For Penn State, one issue is of particular concern. There are honest disagreements on fundamental issues related to whether our institution acted appropriately, how our institution handled a crisis, and whether the sanctions that resulted are appropriate. Reasonable people can be found on all sides of these issues. The reasons for this disagreement are clear. Much is still left to interpretation and the issues have considerable emotional significance to us all. We are likely never to have the full story. We are equally likely never to reach consensus.

The question is whether a lack of civility in discussing these issues will create a deeper divide, one that alters the remarkable bond that exists between all those who are a part of the Penn State community. Consider just a few examples that you may have also come across – the alumnus who says he lost his best friend over his opinion of the Freeh report; the alumni trustee candidate that faced dozens of unkind comments; the long time donor of time and treasure who no longer feels welcome.

Debate and disagreement are critical constructs in the role of universities in testing ideas and promoting progress on complex issues. But, the leaders of your University at every level, from the administration, faculty, staff and students, are unanimous in deploring the erosion of civility associated with our discourse. Reasonable people disagree, but we can disagree without sacrificing respect. The First Amendment guarantees our right to speak as we wish, but we are stronger if we can argue and debate without degrading others.

Today, civility is an issue that arises in many areas of campus debate. Some may argue that the lack of civility is a national issue, promoted by a growing community involved in posting anonymous comments on blogs or by acrimonious national politics. We cannot afford to follow their lead, not if we are to serve our students as role models, not if we expect to continue to attract the outstanding volunteers who serve our University in so many ways, and not if we wish to have Penn Staters take our University to new levels of excellence.

Respect is a core value at Penn State University. We ask you to consciously choose civility and to support those whose words and actions serve to promote respectful disagreement and thereby strengthen our community.

Signed,

Members of the President’s Council (unanimous)

Eric J. Barron, President
Janine S. Andrews, Director, Office of the Board of Trustees and Associate Secretary
Anne (Sandy) Barbour, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics
Susan M. Basso, Vice President for Human Resources
Blannie E. Bowen, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
Michael J. DiRaimo, Special Assistant to the President for Governmental Affairs
Stephen S. Dunham, Vice President and General Counsel
David J. Gray, Senior Vice President for Finance and Business/Treasurer
Madlyn L. Hanes, Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses
Craig Hillemeier, Chief Executive Officer, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center; Senior Vice President for Health Affairs; Dean, Penn State College of Medicine

Nicholas P. Jones, Executive Vice President and Provost of the University
Rodney P. Kirsch, Senior Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations
Robert N. Pangborn, Vice President and Dean for Undergraduate Education
Thomas G. Poole, Vice President for Administration/Secretary
Neil A. Sharkey, Interim Vice President for Research
Damon Sims, Vice President for Student Affairs
Craig D. Weidemann, Vice President for Outreach and Vice Provost for Online Education
Marcus A. Whitehurst, Interim Vice Provost for Educational Equity

Members of the Academic Leadership Council (unanimous)

Francis K. Achampong, Chancellor, Penn State Mont Alto
Michael A. Adewumi, Vice Provost for Global Programs
Kelly M. Austin, Chancellor, Penn State Schuylkill
Lori J. Bechtel-Wherry, Chancellor and Dean, Penn State Altoona
Donald L. Birx, Chancellor, Penn State Erie, The Behrend College
Blannie E. Bowen, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
Christian M. M. Brady, Dean, Schreyer Honors College
David W. Chown, Chancellor, Penn State York
Barbara J. Christ, Interim Dean, College of Agricultural Sciences
Ann (Nan) C. Crouter, Dean, College of Health and Human Development
Charles H. Davis, Chancellor, Penn State Wilkes-Barre
Barbara I. Dewey, Dean, University Libraries and Scholarly Communications
William E. Easterling III, Dean, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Craig S. Edelbrock, Chancellor, Penn State Great Valley
Amr S. Elnashai, Dean, College of Engineering
Gary S. Gildin, Interim Dean, Penn State Law in Carlisle
Davie Jane Gilmour, President, Pennsylvania College of Technology
Madlyn L. Hanes, Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses
Marie Hardin, Dean, College of Communications
Melanie L. Hatch, Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer, Penn State DuBois
Nancy L. Herron, Interim Chancellor, Penn State Greater Allegheny
A. Craig Hillemeier, Chief Executive Officer, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center; Senior Vice President for Health Affairs; Dean, Penn State College of Medicine
R. Keith Hillkirk, Chancellor, Penn State Berks
James W. Houck, Interim Dean, Penn State Law at University Park
Nicholas P. Jones, Executive Vice President and Provost of the University

Barbara O. Korner, Dean, College of Arts and Architecture
Mary-Beth Krogh-Jespersen, Chancellor, Penn State Worthington Scranton
Donna J. Kuga, Interim Chancellor, Penn State Beaver
Jonna M. Kulikowich, Chair, University Faculty Senate
Mukund S. Kulkarni, Chancellor, Penn State Harrisburg
Daniel J. Larson, Dean, Eberly College of Science
Gary M. Lawler, Chancellor, Penn State Hazleton
Kenneth F. Lehrman III, Vice Provost for Affirmative Action
Paula Milone-Nuzzo, Dean, College of Nursing
David H. Monk, Dean, College of Education
Kevin M. Morooney, Vice Provost for Information Technology
Robert N. Pangborn, Vice President and Dean for Undergraduate Education
W. Charles Patrick, Chancellor/Chief Academic Officer, Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus
Mary Beth Rosson, Interim Dean, College of Information Sciences and Technology
Karen Wiley Sandler, Chancellor, Penn State Abington
Neil A. Sharkey, Interim Vice President for Research
Damon Sims, Vice President for Student Affairs
Kevin J. G. Snider, Chancellor, Penn State New Kensington
Regina Vasilatos-Younken, Interim Dean of the Graduate School
Craig D. Weidemann, Vice President for Outreach and Vice Provost for Online Education
Susan Welch, Dean, College of the Liberal Arts
Marcus A. Whitehurst, Interim Vice Provost for Educational Equity
Charles H. Whiteman, Dean, Smeal College of Business
Ann M. Williams, Chancellor, Penn State Lehigh Valley
Kristin R. Woolever, Chancellor, Penn State Brandywine

Members of the University Faculty Senate's Advisory Committee (unanimous)

Mohamad A. Ansari, Penn State Berks, Chair Elect, University Faculty Senate
Thomas O. Beebee, Member, Faculty Advisory Committee to the President
Ellen A. Knodt, Penn State Abington, Member, Faculty Advisory Committee to the President
Jonna M. Kulikowich, Chair, University Faculty Senate

Chester A. Ray, Penn State Hershey, Member, Faculty Advisory Committee to the President
James A. Strauss, Secretary, University Faculty Senate
Brenton M. Yarnal, Immediate Past Chair of the University Faculty Senate

University Staff Advisory Council Executive Officers (unanimous)

Jeremy Warner, Security and Facility Manager, Palmer Museum of Art, Chair
Jennifer C. Blew, Administrative Support Assistant, Schreyer Honors College, Co-Chair-elect
Devon Marie Mower, Residence Life Coordinator, Co-Chair-elect
Susan A. Johnson, Manager of Planning and Operations, Liberal Arts, Secretary

Susan A. Johnson, Manager of Planning and Operations, Liberal Arts, Secretary
Madhavi Kari, Cocurriculum Programs Manager, Information Sciences and Technology, Secretary-elect
Pauline M. McCarl, Administrative Support Coordinator, Earth and Mineral Sciences, Past Secretary

Student leadership (unanimous)

Anand R. Ganjam, President, University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA)
John Shaffer, President, Council of Commonwealth Student Governments (CCSG),

Danielle C. Rhubart, President, Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA)

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Steve Bauer is Managing Editor & Chief Content Officer at StateCollege.com. Steve and his wife Trina are longtime area residents. They reside in State College along with a wacky Golden Retriever named Izzy. You can e-mail Steve at Steve.Bauer@StateCollege.com and you can follow him on Twitter @SteveBauerSCcom
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