|Not superheroes but|
Colloquially known as the FREEHdom Fighters, the group is largely comprised of Penn Staters who refused to buy into what the media and their own university leadership was telling them regarding the causes, responsibility for, and way out of this scandal. Interestingly, the lead advocate in our group for justice for Penn State is not an alumni but hails from Tennessee. A handfull of these members have addressed what they believe we have done not just for the broader community comprised of Penn State and its environs, but the message they hope this country takes away from how things were handled in this "Not Penn State scandal", but a scandal and a crime that cuts across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. These are some thoughts from our members when asked to review the Collegian's questions from Manis Rajaram:
1. What exactly has the SMSS and FREEHdom fighters done to better the PSU community since the Sandusky Scandal.
2. What do you foresee for the SMSS blog and FF in the future? Do you plan to continue on indefinitely?
Barry Bozeman Any "community" but particularly a "university community" and uniquely the Penn State Community - must be about a will to find the truth and act on that truth - not the initial visceral reaction to something deemed horrible and unacceptable. Some parts of our society are only about what to fear and who to blame and acting on that impulse want quick targets and retribution. That is not justice. This country was built on Due Process and deliberate gathering of the facts and evidence in an arena where the accused are given the opportunity to defend their actions. This is a key principal that seems to have been forgotten by the media, the Board of Trustees, Louis Freeh, and the Attorney General, in the rush to judge Joe Paterno and Penn State University as some kind of aberrant "culture". If any football program in the country is the proper mix of academic and athletic excellence it has always been Penn State. Under Joe Paterno the country recognized PSU as the one university that could be counted on to do it the right way. Penn State alumni love Penn State first and the football team because it recognized the values of the university - not because they loved a winning football team. As a University of Tennessee alumni I saw Joe Paterno as the football version of Tenn Women's Basketball coach Pat Summitt.
A University is the place where students, faculty and alumni should expect to see a thorough and deliberate open discussion of the facts - it is not a place to MOVE ON or MOVE FORWARD for some kind of temporary expediency as a PR ploy in the face of a negative media frenzy. Particularly a media frenzy that came about as the result of an inexcusable mistake on the part of the Board of Trustees.
Dr. Graham Spanier had the right idea. You don't accept a Presentment as unassailable fact and we know the Presentment made a hideous LIE seem to be fact. WE KNOW beyond all doubt that Mike McQueary did not see a boy being subjected to anal intercourse and we know for certain he did not say that to Joe or Tim Curley and Gary Schultz. Yet when John P. Surma decided for the board to deny Joe the opportunity to do his regular Tuesday press conference and then fired him and Dr. Spanier it was a clear signal to the media that the Board thought Joe and the PSU administrators were guilty. That makes the Board - particularly Surma, Peetz, Corbett and his appointees, Frasier, Dambly and Lubert guilty of causing this undefended damage to Joe and Penn State. This is not conjecture or a theory - it is fact.
We know now these things are true: 1) Joe Paterno did nothing wrong and everything right - as he had for 61 years at Penn State, Joe did the right thing at every turn. He is and was who he was thought to be and the destruction of his reputation and legacy are unjust to his memory and to the Penn State University he loved and helped to make what it is in the public's eye.
2) We know for certain the Freeh Report from the selection of the disgraced former FBI director to the blind acceptance of his seriously flawed and unconscionable indictment was a second inexcusable mistake.
3) Corbett and his appointees should have been excluded from deliberations and influence over these decisions because of a clear conflict of interest. The same is certainly true of Surma and seems to be likely true of Peetz, Lubert, Dambly, and Frasier. So the question Penn State students need to ask themselves is "what is better for the Penn State community"? To "move on" and forget the lies and inexcusable actions of the Attorney General, the BoT and Louis Freeh? OR is it better for Penn State if the BoT is forced out, the truth about the absurd Freeh Fiction is exposed, and a man of the quality and stature of Joe Paterno is redeemed and reestablished as the Success with Honor and academic excellence subscribed to and practiced by that man who did such great things for your university? Corbett, Surma, Peetz, Erickson, and Louis Freeh can't hold a candle to Joe Paterno. What's better for Penn State and the PSU community, current students, alumni, and faculty is the TRUTH and the TRUTH is that Joe Paterno did nothing wrong and everything right. But the Attorney General, the Governor, the Board of Trustees, Louis Freeh and the national media are all demonstrably WRONG. There is nothing better about allowing the guilty to prosper and the innocent to be defamed. If there was ever anything worth fighting for it's the reputation of your university and it's iconic head coach. The right thing to do is always better.
WE will continue to do this until Joe is vindicated and this injustice is exposed.
Ray Blehar 1. Bettering the PSU community is the OUTCOME of what we are doing. As you are aware, PSU's reputation was severely damaged by a false narrative that started with the grand jury presentment, was continued by biased reporting in the press, was further damaged by the severely flawed Freeh Report, and again, continues to suffer damage by the PSU administration's efforts to put the scandal behind us. The latter has been the strategy since last November and it hasn't worked. Firing Spanier and Paterno didn't put the scandal behind PSU. Accepting the NCAA sanctions did not put the scandal behind us -- this week's game has been labeled the "INELIG-BOWL." And not challenging the Freeh Report essentially has now given Penn State the Pedophile State University label for the next 30 to 50 years.
What we do every day is challenge all the false narratives and find the reasons why the PSU BOT wants to accept the false narratives and "Move Forward."
In terms of results, we firmly believe our reporting has convinced some of the media, including Deadspin.com and Bob Costas, that the 1998 investigation was botched by DPW and CYS. Conversely, the Freeh Report glossed over the obvious failures of these organizations and blamed Penn State for not recognizing Sandusky was a pedophile in 1998. This provides the basis to make a case to revise the NCAA Sanctions that penalize PSU back to the year 1998.
We also know that our reporting has provided useful information to the aggrieved parties in this case -- the Paterno family, Graham Spanier, Timothy Curley, and Gary Schultz. As you are probably aware, civil suits are planned by the aggrieved and these lawsuits will expose many of the facts that have been obscured by the AG, Louis Freeh, and the media.
So, most of our work is in the background, but it is very important and we firmly believe it will lead to the restoration of Penn State's reputation and a school that does things the right way, that believes in success with honor, and that our exploits on the athletic fields were never more important than what takes place every day in our classrooms.
2. I don't see the SMSS blog continuing on indefinitely. There will come a point when the entirety of our work regarding Penn State will come to an end. As far as the Freehdom Fighters go, well, we are learning a lot from this experience and may be able to put our experience to work helping others in the future.
Perhaps this goes to answering your first question in a much broader sense than the PSU community. As we uncovered the information about the 1998 failures of DPW and CYS, a number of child abuse victims reached out to us with their stories of how Centre County CYS dropped the ball in their abuse cases. In addition, we have had discussions with some victims advocacy groups about the 1998 failures and have asked them to call for investigations of CYS and DPW. So, it does appear that working to improve child protective services seems to be a logical next step for SMSS and the Freehdom Fighters.
Cathy S.The SMSS blog and the FREEHdom Fighters team behind it has worked to present an alternative to the misinformed message that the media has continued to spread since the release of the Grand Jury Presentment last November, through the arrest of Jerry Sandusky, the cowardly Board of Trustees actions, and continuing through the release of the flawed Freeh report and unjustified NCAA sanctions to today. Our message is based on facts that the media ignores in its haste to be the first to publish sensational headlines that grab readers. Our goal is to contradict that false narrative and replace it with a thoughtful consideration of the facts that corrects the rush to judgment of the past year. This mission includes shining a light on the negligence of The Second Mile, the Department of Public Welfare, Children and Youth Services, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Governor, all of whom had a responsibility to protect these children and all children. While “bettering the PSU community” is not one of our direct goals, to the extent that the rush to judgment has negatively impacted the PSU community in spirit, morale, pride, business, academic stature, and future opportunities, we hope that our efforts do better the PSU community. (And thank you for calling it the Sandusky Scandal.)
For the future? We are not “moving on,” we are not going away.
MGK. I agree with Cathy's emphasis that, while bettering the PSU community is a desirable outcome, it is not the Prime Directive. I would also note the Attorney General's role we've scrutinized so citizens can consider the job their AG and Governor are doing. And I'd point out that the name Sandusky Scandal was not selected randomly for the name of our group. To date, The Second Mile has not received the scrutiny it should have received FIRST, before Penn State became involved. TSM is the common denominator among victims and bore the legal responsibility for its founder, and the FREEHdom Fighters have worked to draw attention to their role.
Wendy Silverwood. A University should be place where the students & faculty SHOULD be able to do critical thinking, freely discuss ALL sides of an issue. This is what we send our sons & daughters there for-- to learn & grow. Not be pushed into a false or determined narrative. That is not a characteristic of a healthy, vibrant University community. To ask what we've done for the community is somewhat of a loaded question. As I see it as a Pennsylvanian from outside the State College community, and as an Alum & parent of an alum..I see a dearth of facts out there. Our work and this blog is presenting more sides to this story.
As I shouted to Judge Freeh & the press that day in July, you can't tell this story without delving into 2Mile, CYS, DPW & Corbett & the PaOAG. All these players had a part in it. This is not a PSU scandal..it's a Commonwealth Scandal
I would imagine the blog will continue until it is not needed anymore..which would be when we finally get straight answers from all the parties mentioned above
Debbie R. I would be very clear that about our goals. As I see it, our goal is not "to better the PSU community" but rather clear up mis-information and provide facts. In fact, dare I say, that I believe our mission has a far wider reach than just the Penn State community? This could have happened anywhere and, to the extent that we can point this out to people, the more traction we'll get outside the PSU community.
Bill P. What we have done/are doing is to inform 100's of thousands of people of the truth and that in itself helps PSU. By telling the truth and presenting facts we are telling people across the country that "Due Process" and "Justice" still have a place in American Society and if we achieve that it will better PSU and the nation as a whole. "Due Process" is not something for the media to decide. But INFORMED people with the facts and objectivity to weigh those facts in a logical way and not make decisions in a knee jerk way. We are exposing the leaders to the PSu community that their OLD GUARD BOT doesn't care about PSU and justice, just their own self interest
Tracy G. Number 1 - interesting question and it may be subject so alot of misinterpretation, if not misquoting. We have certainly provided facts about the issues and people. We are searching for the truth and pointing it out as we find it. To me, that betters the community. I actually was thinking the blog should continue. I think people expect efforts like ours will be done at some point. Then some may ask why we don't dedicate it to helping combat abuse or other goals like that. Our response should say we won't stop after this chapter is closed. This is now something that should continue on, providing information through informative articles.
Linda B. Pretty simple answer to me....FF's are looking for the answers to the questions that the Penn State community has continually asked the university's board and they have failed to answer. With regard to question 2, I would say we'll stay around for as long as it takes to find the truth OR for the board to come forward and tell the truth!
Karen W. Well for starters, the Collegian reporter referred to this as the Sandusky Scandal, placing ownership where it belongs, on Jerry Sandusky. That in itself is a significant change in media dialog to this point.
Vickie Fleisher-Gann: 1. Our group of PSU alumni from all over the USA formulated an action plan in order to review the facts in this scandal and teach the community the real truth and not allow the “truth” the media uses to taint the reputation of Joe Paterno and our beloved University…We received the best education PSU offered and now that education is going to come back and show the PSU community we mean business when it comes to honor, integrity and the love of our school…Many of us have lost sleep, skipped meals and sacrificed more than you can imagine to make sure everyone who disgraced our honor, integrity and reputation get what they deserve
2) I can only speak for myself but I plan on fighting until Joe Paterno and PSU are restored to greatness, every member of the BOT who sat during the reign of terror all resign, peace is restored to Penn State and the Penn State Community and Sue Paterno and the Paterno family receive an apology for the way Joe’s last days on earth were in shambles…61 years Joe Paterno served Penn State honorably and he didn’t deserve to be treated the way he was!!!...
Bill B. SMSS has presented the community with facts and information unavailable to them through the MSM, presented in a way that demonstrates we don't know the whole story or have necessarily been told the truth by various PSU, state, and local officials. It's not that these facts aren't available to the media, but they don't fit the dialog so they are ignored at the expense of reputations, legacies, and justice. The "community" ultimately determines the value of our efforts. A large segment of the community across the country senses something isn't right in the story that unfolded. They are correct. If we help them find answers to what really occured in Pennsylvania, it will have been worth the effort.
Please weigh in with your own thoughts on how you believe our activities, and those of others like us, are affecting this story, and the potential for justice born of due process as it affects the future of Penn State, and the legacy of the man revered for his role in building this institution.