HARRISBURG - With the Penn State sex scandal drawing global attention in a courtroom in Centre County Tuesday, the university's soft-spoken, newly-appointed president was making the rounds in the state Capitol meeting with government leaders.
Rodney Erickson, the university's longtime chief academic officer, named to replace ousted president Graham Spanier in the wake of the allegations against former football coach Jerry Sandusky, held low-key "meet and greets" with Gov. Corbett and legislative leaders in the House and Senate.
"It was a get-acquainted meeting," said Erickson as he left a morning meeting with House Democratic leaders. "I'm obviously brand new to the job."
Erickson said lawmakers offered "well wishes" for Penn State during what he described as a difficult time.
House Rep. Mike Hanna (D., Centre), who under the new legislative redistricting plan will represent a piece of Penn State campus that includes Beaver Stadium, said Erickson told legislators he was working to instill a new openness at the university.
"We had frank discussions and some of our members had some pointed questions for the president," said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D., Allegheny).
Costa said Senate lawmakers were comfortable with his responses and looked forward to a more comprehensive discussion in a meeting with Erickson next month.
By coincidence, Erickson's Harrisburg visit came on the same day that Sandusky, who is charged with abusing 10 young boys over ten years, was in a Centre County courtroom to waive his right to a preliminary hearing.
Also Tuesday, the state Senate unanimously approved a measure to create a task force that would conduct a broad review of Pennsylvania laws and procedures governing child protection and the reporting of child abuse.
The 11-member task force will issue recommendations by Nov. 30 2012.
"The allegations regarding child abuse at Penn State shake every decent person to the core," said bill sponsor Sen. Kim Ward (R., Westmoreland). "We need a top-to-bottom review to identify where our laws are ineffective, and to recommend what changes need to be made to shield children from such despicable crimes."
The bill must still be approved by the House.