UNIVERSITY PARK — Do you take your children to the Intramural Building on Penn State’s campus to shoot some baskets, or accompany them with a bag of volleyballs for a few drills?
Do you head over to Rec Hall for a game of racquetball, or go for an evening jog around the indoor track there or the outdoor track by the Multisport Facility?
Such traditionally commonplace activities for many living in the region are no longer allowed for anyone who does not have a campus identification card, according to a new Penn State policy.
New restrictions are among the many changes resulting from the Jerry Sandusky scandal as the university tries to control access to campus facilities.
“It was a safety concern,” said university spokeswoman Jill Shockey. “It’s providing safety to all of our constituents.”
The policy limits the use of Penn State intercollegiate athletic facilities to Penn State student-athletes and athletics personnel, and recreation facilities use to people with valid university IDs, including students, faculty and staff.
Those with Penn State IDs will be allowed to bring one related guest to use facilities, according to the policy, but only during times when the buildings are designated as open and available for use.
“The (u)niversity’s new facilities policy is an important part of an overall plan to provide the safest environment possible to our constituents, and also reemphasizes our commitment to offer athletic and recreational space for the use of our students, faculty, staff and their guests,” said Steve Shelow, assistant vice president for police and public safety, in a statement on the university website. “It’s important to note that we will continue to honor prior agreements with outside organizations to use these facilities.”
The policy, one of many related to recommendations made early in the year in the wake of the scandal, was actually approved and announced July 11 — the day before the Freeh report was made public. The announcement appeared on the university’s website, but it was not sent to all university employees.
“We are going over all of our policies, a chunk at a time, to determine where we can tighten things up,” Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said. “As an example, you recently saw changes to background checks and mandatory reporting expectations. There will be more policy changes to come as we revisit them one by one.”
Powers said a committee was formed to study how Penn State manages its athletics facilities. The group included police, risk-management specialists and student affairs personnel.
She said the committee “determined that having our recreation facilities so open and accessible was not in the best interests of safety or in the best interests of our students. When we benchmarked against other institutions our size, we also found that we were very generous with sharing the use of our facilities with outside entities.”
Powers said there also was a question of fairness to students and others who support the facilities financially.
“In terms of our recreation facilities, some of these were either renovated or built with student fees,” she said, “so students really should be the primary users and they should also feel safe while they are there.”
What is unclear is how such policies will be enforced. Some structures have or will have specific entrances with places to swipe an ID card, but others like Rec Hall with multiple entrances may prove more problematic.
Powers said an implementation plan is being developed.
“We are working on ways to more broadly publicize the new policy and determine how we will phase in the change,” Powers said. “We will need to obviously put some controls in place.
“In some cases, those controls will be technological, like card swipes at the doors for only those with a Penn State ID. And in some cases it will require staffing, where people are asked to show their ID. Those kinks are being worked out and will not occur all at once. We are currently assessing our buildings and their needs in relation to this policy.”
Gordon Brunskill can be reached at 231-4608 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Reporter Anne Danahy contributed to this story.