Our View | Penn State took proper course in settling with Sandusky victims

November 2, 2013 

The dollar figures associated with Penn State’s reaction to the Jerry Sandusky scandal are mind-boggling.

But the university’s reported $59.7 million payout to 26 of Sandusky’s victims was an important and appropriate step.

Penn State this week confirmed that it had reached signed settlements with 23 men who said they had been abused by Sandusky, and that the university had agreed to terms with three more.

That nearly $60 million in lawsuit settlements is in addition to the millions more the university is paying for attorneys and consultants and the $60 million fine levied by the NCAA in a rising price tag for this tragic situation.

From a practical standpoint, fighting each lawsuit in the courts would have cost much more.

But this was the right move regardless.

We applaud the university for moving quickly once Sandusky was convicted and sentenced to work with attorneys for the victims, even as other court actions continue to play out.

It was important that Penn State come to terms with these individuals, who say they were sexually abused by Sandusky. The former assistant football coach is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence in a state prison, while three former Penn State leaders face trial on charges that they covered up Sandusky’s crimes.

Even if its former administrators are acquitted of allegations related to the Sandusky scandal, Penn State cannot divorce itself from responsibility.

President Rodney Erickson said: “We hope this is another step forward in the healing process for those hurt by Mr. Sandusky, and another step forward for Penn State. We cannot undo what has been done, but we can and must do everything possible to learn from this and ensure it never happens again at Penn State.”

That’s the appropriate approach for the university’s response to this scandal, and the right spirit for helping the victims move on with their lives.

We do applaud Penn State for not simply paying off every individual who stepped forward with a claim.

University lawyers with the New York firm Feinberg Rozen reviewed claims from 32 men and handled negotiations. Six have been either rejected for lack of viability — “without merit,” Penn State said — or remain under review.

We also support the commitment by both sides of these negotiations to maintain the privacy of the individual claimants.

Penn State has said its liability insurance will cover much of the costs of these settlements. Individual settlement amounts will be kept confidential.

This is a significant moment in Penn State’s efforts to move past the scandal.

But the moment is even more important for the victims.

We recognize the university’s understanding of the magnitude of the crimes, some of which occurred in its facilities.

And for the sake of the victims, we believe the university is sincere in its desire to help them find a degree of healing from the wrongs they have endured.

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