On PSU campus, few notice Spanier conviction

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The Penn State University campus was quiet Friday afternoon despite the stunning conviction of ex-university president Graham B. Spanier on one count of child endangerment in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case. Students went about their routines seemingly unfazed and mostly unaware of the verdict.

At the HUB-Robeson Center, Penn State’s student union, students stared at their laptops and iPhones. But there were few conversations about the Harrisburg trial or its outcome.

When asked how closely he had been following Spanier’s trial, 19-year-old student Justin Jarvis gave a blank stare.

“I’ve never even heard of that guy,” he said.

The Arlington, Va., native was doing homework with Hanna Tekola, 20, a Sacramento native who said she too had never heard of Spanier and hadn’t known much about the Jerry Sandusky scandal before arriving in State College.

The verdict came down Friday afternoon after nearly 12 hours of jury deliberation and a weeklong trial, which included testimony from former university administrators Gary Schultz and Tim Curley, both of whom previously pleaded guilty.

Spanier, 68, had long proclaimed his innocence and had fierce support from some in the Penn State community.  He was acquitted on a second child endangerment count as well as a felony count of conspiracy.

Shortly after the verdict, the university administration issued a statement, saying their thoughts were with Sandusky’s victims and pledging heightened vigilance going forward.

“In the view of the jury, with respect to Spanier, and by their own admission, as to Curley and Schultz, these former leaders fell short,” the statement read. “And while we cannot undo the past, we have re-dedicated ourselves and our University to act always with the highest integrity, in affirming the shared values of our community.”

Student Jace Martin, 19, of Philipsburg, Pa., said none of his friends discussed the trial, likely because his freshman class was six years removed from the scandal.

No current undergraduate students were on campus in 2011, when news first broke that Sandusky, the defensive coordinator of the university’s revered football team, had been assaulting young boys for decades, sometimes in the campus’ athletic facilities.

Blake Friedman, a 21-year-old journalism major from Abington, said he had been following news reports from the trial and personally agreed with the verdict. He said he hasn’t had many conversations with friends about Spanier but expected that to change after the verdict.

Penn State “is kind of known as a cult community, where we protect our own at all costs,” Friedman said. “I think it’s important the truth gets out.”

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