Penn State students organize, vent online during campus scandal

'Fire Joe Paterno' has more than 1,000 Facebook followers.

Penn State University (PSU) students used Facebook, Twitter, and an online petition this week to pressure the school’s Board of Trustees into firing the university president after a sex scandal embroiled the campus.

Penn State’s official Facebook page is filled with supportive and angry messages from current students and alums a week after Jerry Sandusky, Paterno’s longtime assistant, was charged with 40 criminal counts of sex abuse of minors.

Students, alumni, and PSU supporters took to Facebook to defend and criticize Paterno, who was fired by the Board of Trustees Nov. 9 after 46 years as PSU’s iconic football coach.

PSU officials were made aware of Sandusky’s inappropriate behavior with boys over the past decade, according to the extensive grand jury report, but did not alert police. Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly has said Paterno is not a target of the investigation.

There has been a spate of pro-Paterno Facebook groups and Twitter hash tags supportive of the legendary football coach created this week. And an online petition on demanding the ouster of Penn State President Graham Spanier has drawn almost 1,800 signees and hundreds of heated comments critical of PSU’s handling of the controversy.

Students have used the Twitter hash tag #psubot – Penn State University Board of Trustees – to organize protests outside the board’s office and to tweet the latest news about what the trustees are doing – or not doing – in response to allegations that Sandusky’s crimes were known by many on campus.

“I think everyone turns to social media now as a way to stay involved and voice an opinion,” said Anne Richards, a senior political science and journalism major at PSU. “I expected nothing less when it came to the Sandusky controversy here. … [Social media] has really played an important role in everything that’s happened over the past few days.”

PSU students said they used other Twitter hash tags related to the university – including #psu and #joepa — to organize a show of support outside Paterno’s house Nov. 8, as calls for his ouster continued.