Penn State backs Barron; Florida State challenges New York Times report on Jameis Winston case

mcarroll@centredaily.comApril 16, 2014 


President elect Eric Barron answers questions from the media during the press conference. The Penn State University Board of Trustees approved Eric Barron as its next president, Monday, February 17, 2014, in University Park, Pa.

NABIL K. MARK — CDT photo Buy Photo

Penn State thoroughly vetted incoming president Eric Barron, a university spokesman said Wednesday, the same day The New York Times released a report critical of how Florida State handled sexual abuse allegations against a star football player while Barron was president there.

“Penn State’s presidential searches are confidential,” university spokesman David La Torre said in an email. “However, in electing Dr. Barron, the trustees conducted all appropriate, thorough background checks and investigations required by institutional policy for all employees.”

The paper’s investigation concluded Florida State “did little to determine what had happened” when a female student alleged she was sexually assaulted by quarterback Jameis Winston, who has not been charged and would go on to win the Heisman Trophy. The newspaper reported the university did not respond to a question about whether Barron knew about the allegations.

Penn State said Barron will not be available for interviews until he takes office and directed further questions to Florida State.

“Penn State is pleased that Eric Barron will officially become the president of our university on Monday, May 12,” La Torre said. “We look forward to his proven leadership as he takes the reins and guides the institution forward.”

Barron addressed the Winston issue at his introductory press conference here in February:

“It’s incredibly important that an institution follow due process, that we let the police do their jobs and the district attorney to do their jobs and, if it gets to that point, to have the courts do their job, “ he said at the time.

“And for the university to respect that, because if you sit there and examine what occurred with Jameis Winston, here are many alumni that are looking and saying, ‘This man became a Heisman candidate and we moved to No. 2 in the polls and that’s why this is happening,’ ” Barron said. “And so there is this sense that you must support this quarterback, because look at this impact, and we’re so sure of what’s right or wrong in this particular case.”

Florida State fired back Wednesday in a statement, expressing “deep disappointment” in the Times report, denying that university officials did not properly investigate rape allegations against Winston, and that the university did not cooperate in explaining its actions to the newspaper.

“The Times has done its readers, as well as the FSU community, a disservice by omitting (the university’s) answers and by seriously misrepresenting the university’s concern and care for its students who are victims of sexual assault,” the statement said.

Florida State’s statement pointed to programs available on the Tallahassee campus to support victims of sexual assault.

“In the case examined by the Times involving Jameis Winston,” the FSU statement said, “no university official outside the Victim Advocate Program received a report from any complainant naming Winston prior to when the allegations were made public in November 2013.”

The Tallahassee District Attorney’s Office chose not to press charges against Winston, who led the Seminoles to a 34-31 win over Auburn in the BCS championship game in January.

The university said it fulfilled its reporting obligations under Title IX. FSU said 83 percent of its students live off-campus “where incidents are handled by the Tallahassee Police Department and are not required to be reported as part of the university’s annual campus crime statistics.”

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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