Update Post 9/2/2012
The September 2007 report on Judicial Affairs, obtained by the Centre Daily Times, recommended changes — which then- President Graham Spanier implemented. They include in general leaving it to directors, advisers or coaches to decide whether students under disciplinary probation should be allowed to participate in sports and clubs rather than putting that in the hands of Student Affairs, which oversees the Office of Student Conduct.
“Involvement in student activities is for the most part a healthy influence on student behavior, and removing such involvement as a way of getting a student’s attention to correct misbehavior is likely to be counterproductive,” the report reads.
Triponey, who left Penn State in 2007 after four years in the job, has been featured in several news stories following the Sandusky scandal, condemning interference from Joe Paterno in disciplinary matters involving football players and agreeing with the idea of a cultural problem. But her stance on who should decide whether athletes in trouble can participate in extracurricular programs — the person in her former position or the club or sport leader — runs counter to the 2007 report, a product of an independent faculty committee.
By Gary Leavit–edited by Myke Triebold, with responses from Mike Meachem in italics. My interest in hosting this website is to be fair and not to create collateral damage from an horrific tragedy in Penn State’s History. I chose to integrate Mr Meachem’s comments in this posting, as many people will read the article and not go to the comment section. I wanted his side to have equal time.
Who is Vicky Triponey? And why does she hate Joe Paterno?
Hell hath no fury like a woman spurned. And there is no doubt that Vicky Triponey was spurned by Joe Paterno.
Triponey was hired in 2003 by Graham Spanier after a rocky and controversial stint at the University of Connecticut. Within months of her arrival at Penn State she began a “Reign of Terror” aimed at consolidating power within her Office of Student Affairs and crushing or eliminating anything or anyone that challenged that power.
As to this notion of “consolidating power,” the details of which will be addressed below, be advised that Dr. Triponey’s entire career has been dedicated to the growth and empowerment of students so they may become constructive participants in our society. The only power monger in this episode is the idol on whose behalf you continue to spew hateful falsehoods
She began by dismantling the Student Organization Appeals Board. This Board, composed of students, faculty and administrators, heard appeals from organizations like the student government and the fraternity council. Triponey became the sole arbiter of of any questions or disputes, with no appeal possible.
Patently false. First, the fraternity and sorority chapters have their own councils that make judgments about their behavior. You should study up on this. Secondly, the initiative was merely to streamline and modernize the process to assure due process in organizational appeals. She has never acted in a way to supplant student decisions with her own. This was an effort to delineate the process between organizational misconduct and individual misconduct and had nothing whatever to do with eliminating anyone’s right of appeal. Indeed, you might want to check with Greek leaders of that era to get some facts about how Dr. Triponey handled these kinds of matters
She then informed the campus radio station, LION 90.7, that all funding would be terminated unless her office was given direct control over programming and content. She famously warned, “the first thing to go will be Radio Free Penn State” — the popular talk show known for its frank criticism of some of the administration’s decisions.
Utterly and completely false. The quote you cite here was never said, if at all, certainly not in the context you cite; your attribution of the sentiment is a lie. The radio station had, at least in part, been funded temporarily with a grant of funds from the Division of Student Affairs. Had that practice been allowed to continue, the radio station would fall within the institutional control of the university and, thus, actually have its content judged against institutional interests. What she told the students was that the radio station would need to be treated differently if it were a university station by dint of funding source. Her initiative here was to change the source of funding from the Division of Student Affairs to student activity fees. The radio station would, indeed, no longer receive money from heaven – that’s true, as it would need to apply for, and justify its need for, funding through the student activity fee process.
Triponey next turned on the Student Supreme Court which was part of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG). For fifty years, the Court effectively registered and oversaw student organizations. Again, she usurped all decision-making power and became the judge and jury herself.
After, essentially dissolving the USG, the student government, and replacing it with an organization under her direct control, she decided it was time to butt heads with Joe Paterno.
In 2007, she pounced on an off-campus incident: Anthony Scirrotto, a safety on the football team, and his girlfriend were accosted and assaulted by three drunken students on a State College street. Two of those attackers were subsequently found guilty of harassment and criminal mischief. Later that evening, Scirrotto and a number of his teammates met up with the attackers at an off-campus apartment party, where a confrontation and fight ensued.
I am not going to spend a great deal of energy correcting your grossly inaccurate depiction of the incident at the Meridian apartments other than to say there were more than 12 players, as many as two dozen allegedly, beating the living crap out of two guys, one of whom ended up in the hospital. This occurred some 45 minutes after these two young men confronted and verbally assaulted Scioritto and his girlfriend. This attack was pre-mediated and organized. Some of the players invaded the apartment; some stood in the hall keeping watch while the other group of thugs engaged in TV-like violence by breaking a bottle of beer over one of the victims’ head among other things. The only point I will concede here is that the episode did indeed start and stop off campus, which I think is your point in underscoring that it began on a “State College” street.
In a series of emails to Dr. Spanier, Triponey insisted that she alone had the responsibility to discipline the players involved and indicated that suspension or expulsion was called for. Joe Paterno pointed out that since the incidents were off-campus and everyone involved was facing criminal trials, it was necessary to wait for DUE PROCESS to take its course and that in the meantime he would, as always, determine team discipline.
The gist of the e-mails was to defend the integrity of the student judicial process, something to which all students are subject. In addition, the Code of Student Conduct that was in place at that time and well before Dr. Triponey’s arrival at Penn State (like the vast majority of other colleges and universities in America) applied to student conduct even off campus. What this means, of course, is that it does not matter where all this took place; the student judicial process would still play a role. If these guys were members of the Chess Club, they would be subject to this process. But football players, by the grace of your idol, were to be treated differently. No conclusion regarding expulsion had been reached at the time of those e-mails. Indeed, those decisions were to be made by a hearing board that would include students. Dr. Triponey would serve as appeals officer in the event the student would choose to appeal. This is the student version of “due process.”
Ultimately, all charges against Scirroto were dismissed in exchange for a guilty plea to misdemeanor trespass resulting in a fine of $500 and 25 hours of community service.
Joe used the incident as a teaching moment, sentencing the WHOLE TEAM to a season of after-game stadium cleanup duty. When Triponey protested and insisted that she alone should determine the fate of the players, Joe said he really didn’t think she understood teenagers very well, having never had children of her own.
More importantly, Dr. Triponey never insisted that she alone had responsibility for discipline. The essence of her view is that student athletes in this situation are subject to three forms of discipline: (1) as citizens of the larger society / community, they are accountable to the law and criminal courts; (2) as citizens of the university community they are accountable to the Student Code of Conduct and its processes, and; (3) as athletes they are accountable to team rules and the coach. The only person insisting that he and he alone handle the discipline of these thugs was your idol. He even said so in an e-mail to Dr. Spanier. This was covered in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The “stadium clean-up duty” lasted all of two weeks (see the Centre Daily Times). And, oh by the way, if the coach was so interested as you claim in “due process” why were the innocent players – those who did not engage in this particular episode of thuggery — punished along with the guilty? Common athletic punishment ? Sure. Due process? Not at all. Please. As to the remark Joe made on the radio. . . well, that was simply an act of condescension that was both incorrect and in poor taste. Dr. Triponey’s scholarship is in student development. To suggest she knows nothing about student discipline belies the fact that, at the time, she had 25 years of experience and a national reputation for working effectively with college students. Not only did she understand discipline, she understood how to help them grow as citizens:
That set her off on another round of emails and threats. By this time she had made so many enemies on campus and was creating so much turmoil, that Dr. Spanier asked for her resignation, acknowledging the mistake he had made four years earlier.
The coach, Athletic Director and Dr. Spanier continually, and inappropriately, interfered with the established student judicial processes, attempting to replace the determination to be made by a student discipline board with their judgment – in effect denying students a voice – by negotiating sanctions acceptable to your idol. Dr. Triponey attempted to defend the process without regard to what the outcome might be. Dr. Spanier, 5 months after the Meridian episode did indeed ask for her resignation. He never did, however, “acknowledge” hiring her was a mistake. He did indicate she was not fitting in with “the Penn State way.”
Now, with Joe gone and Spanier sidelined, Triponey gets to play her “I told you so” card in a very receptive media environment, obscuring the plain truth that absolutely nothing she did or didn’t do in her disastrous tenure at Penn State had any relationship whatsoever to the Sandusky affair and it’s aftermath.
This has nothing to do with “I told you so.” It does, however, speak to the secretive, deceptive culture that prevails in the football program and at the executive level of the university in acting as a shroud for the football program. The Meridian episode, when you look at the real facts (as opposed to the ones you invented), demonstrates how “the Penn State way” operated to impose dichotomous sets of standards: one set of rules for the football program and players – your idol shall decide right and wrong; and one set for everyone else.
Even Louis Freeh ignored her complaints in his biased summary of his investigation. We don’t know if she influenced Mark Emmert. What we do know is that she is a bitter, disgruntled former employee who was spurned by Penn State and Coach Paterno.
The investigation, appropriately, focused narrowly on the Sandusky episode, and thus her interactions with Paterno and Dr. Spanier were relevant only to the pattern and practice of conduct evidenced by their handling of the Meridian episode (and others). Thus, her observations regarding the prevailing culture at Penn State were merely affirmations of what Freeh’s team had already discovered for themselves
And that she believes she understands kids in their late teens and early 20′s better than a man who spent 61 years mentoring them. And who helped raise five of his own kids and 17 grandchildren.
That was never the issue except for the fact that your idol arrogantly — and wrongly — proclaimed it.
That’s who Vicky Triponey is. And that’s why she hates Joe Paterno.
The fact is that Dr. Triponey received a resolution of appreciation from Penn State’s USG at the end of her first year – signed by every member of USG. Later she was named an honorary Nittany Lion mascot by Penn State’s cheer leaders. And later still, she was saluted (chosen by students!) as the honorary Grand Marshall for Penn State’s Homecoming parade. This is hardly the record that you falsely describe. It is the record of someone who has served honorably and effectively in helping students grow and discover themselves and serve their campus community with distinction.