Penn State: A third of the Freeh report recommendations implemented

mdawson@centredaily.comOctober 12, 2012 

One-third of the 119 recommendations to Penn State in the Freeh report have been completed, the university announced today.

Among the steps to meet the recommendations that stemmed from the third-party investigation into Penn State leaders’ response to allegations of sexual abuse against former defensive coach Jerry Sandusky was conducting mandatory reporter training for more than 7,200 employees and volunteers.

The university has been working on implementing the recommendations since January, when the initial ones were made. So far, 40 of the recommendations have been completed.

The university also put together a master list of 3,000 names of people who have reporting responsibility under the Clery Act, which requires universities to disclose information about crime on campuses.

The No. 1 recommendation from the Freeh report — the one to guide the other 118 — was to examine the university’s culture to ensure children are protected, create more accountability among leaders, increase transparency into the university’s management, and integrate athletics with the university community.

Penn State said that progress is on track and said it remains committed to protecting children and promoting accountability, transparency and the integration of athletics by implementing all recommendations set forth in the report.

“The implementation of these recommendations will have the effect of reinforcing and enhancing the many aspects of the university that make up its cultures,” said Penn State spokesman David La Torre.

The university is recommending the police force continue to fall under the supervision of the senior vice president for finance and business, which is the response to the Freeh report’s recommendation of reviewing that relationship. That position was previously held by Gary Schultz, who was among the former senior leaders faulted in the report for allegedly concealing abuse allegations against Sandusky. Schultz was indicted on a perjury charge and is accused of lying to the grand jury investigating Sandusky.

The athletic department’s hierarchy has been restructured, too, as a result of the recommendation to streamline who reports to whom.

The associate athletic director no longer reports to the head football coach. The top spokesman for athletics will have to report to the university’s top communications person when that position is filled.

The university’s progress is posted in an online document at www.psu.edu/ur/2012/Freeh_Matrix.pdf.

“There has been great collaboration and cooperation across all of our departments and organizations in addressing these recommendations,” Penn State President Rodney Erickson said in a statement. “I’m very proud of our faculty, staff and students and look forward to continued progress. I am fully confident that Penn State will emerge stronger and serve as a model of compliance for universities across the nation.”

The recommendations deal with athletics, university police, university governance, human resources matters, and more.

University administrators have been assigned to review, analyze and possibly implement the recommendations. Committees within the board of trustees will monitor the progress.

Here’s a look at the status of some of the progress on the recommendations:

An internal database was set up to manage employee reports of misconduct. This was from a recommendation to establish a policy that all police reports alleging criminal conduct by Penn State students, faculty and staff are reported to the Office of Human Resources.

The chairwoman and vice chairman of the board of trustees and a governance committee are working to review the university president’s responsibilities. That’s in progress.

The university put into place a new policy that requires background checks of all new hires. That went into effect in July.

The Commission on the Accreditation on Law Enforcement is conducting a review of the university’s police department, which is pursuing full accreditation.

University police officers will be trained in December about child sex abuse. A detective attended a training session as part of the recommendation about providing training to investigators.

The university plans to review computer use policies. The Freeh report recommended updating its policies.

While board leaders have spoken about implementing all or most of the recommended changes, it appears that trustees may opt to skip at least a few or study them further.

The board’s outreach committee members, for example, seemed to agree at a recent meeting that they do not support the idea of giving each trustee a university email address and making it public.

The Freeh report also recommends that the university conduct national searches for high-level positions in athletics. The current athletics director, Dave Joyner, was a member of the board of trustees when he was appointed to the job, taking over after the previous director was placed on adminiistrative leave because he is facing charges related to the Sandusky case.

While the Freeh report recommends practicing openness and transparency, and university leaders have said that is the new standard for doing business, they have not spoken in support of the university being covered by the state’s Right to Know Law as public schools are. Instead, they’ve expressed concern about having to make public certain research and donor information.

The Freeh report concluded that senior university officials -- former president Graham Spanier, former head football coach Joe Paterno and former administrators Schultz and Tim Curley -- concealed abuse allegations against Sandusky.

The report was the basis for the NCAA’s harsh sanctions that include a four-year postseason bowl ban for the Nittany Lions football team, a reduction in scholarships and vacating 112 wins from 1998 to 2011.

Attorneys for the former university officials have condemned the report.

Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT. CDT reporter Anne Danahy contributed to this report.

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