In a letter to Pennsylvania State University’s Board of Trustees, leaked on Monday to the Associated Press, the former president Graham B. Spanier says that he would not have ignored sexual-abuse complaints during his tenure, as he was beaten by his father as a child.
Mr. Spanier’s lawyer, Peter Vaira, says that the abuse was never sexual, though the young Spanier had to have his nose straightened several times after “disciplinary beatings.”
In the letter, Mr. Spanier writes, “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.”
A July 12 report by the former FBI director Louis J. Freeh on his investigation of top Penn State administrators refutes the claim, showing e-mails between Mr. Spanier and other officials regarding allegations of child sex abuse by Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State football coach.
In one 2001 e-mail, Mr. Spanier avoids reporting an incident of abuse and encourages another employee to talk to Mr. Sandusky directly instead of notifying the authorities: “The only downside for us is if the message isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it. but that can be assessed down the road.”
Mr. Spanier has said he did not understand the 2001 incident was sexual, and has categorized the Freeh report as “egregious in its incomplete and inaccurate reporting.” University officials have offered no comment on the letter.
News of the letter came out on the same day that the NCAA imposed staggering penalties on Penn State for its handling of the Sandusky abuse.