The U.S. Department of Education delivered Penn State’s latest blow Thursday — a $2.4 million one.
The university has only recently started to recover from the sanctions levied by the NCAA after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Now the Feds have given another.
It was not unexpected. A review of the school’s compliance with Clery Act requirements has been in the works for years.
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President Eric Barron received a letter detailing penalties while attending his last scheduled trustees meeting of the year.
The communication outlined issues including failure to notify, lack of administrative capability, improper classification of reported crimes under the Clery Act, improperly collected crime statistics in 2011 — the year Sandusky was arrested and charged — and failure to notify students and staff.
“Penn State provided the federal government with unfettered access to all requested information in the Department of Education review. This review, in scope and duration, is unprecedented by the Department of Education. The review is focused on past incidents, policies and procedures from 1998-2011,” according to a press release from the university. “We have just received the report today and are in the process of conducting a thorough review so that we may better understand its findings. We will comment further when our thorough evaluation of the department’s 239-page report has been completed.”
According to the letter, the department’s review looked at Penn State publications, written agreements, police incident reports, investigations, arrests, disciplinary files, policies and procedures from 1998 to 2011. It also delved into the meat of the Sandusky scandal via the Freeh report, the university’s commissioned independent assessment of the scandal, as well as a critique of that report compiled at the request of the family of late longtime Nittany Lions football coach Joe Paterno, who was criticized in the Freeh report.
“The review team also carefully monitored all significant developments arising from the Sandusky trial, as well as other related investigations,” the letter stated.
The fines were broken down as $27,500 for failure to notify; $27,500 for lack of administrative capacity; $27,500 for failure to include six required statements in its 2011 annual security report; $10,000 for failure to properly title its security and fire reports that same year; $27,500 for each violent crime not reported and smaller fines for lesser offenses, a total of 331 crimes; $27,500 for failure to collect statistics; $27,500 for failure to include accurate statistics; $27,500 for failure to distribute the security report in 2011; $27,500 for failure to properly notify prospective students and employees; $27,500 for failure to distribute the complete drug and alcohol prevention program information.
The fine will be effective Nov. 25. Penn State has the opportunity to appeal.
Local leaders are focusing on the improvements made at Penn State since the Sandusky incident.
“(Rep. Glenn Thompson’s) office has not had adequate time to digest the nearly 250 pages of the just released report, so it would be premature to comment on the findings,” said Nick Ruffner, communications director for Thompson, R-Howard. “However, Congressman Thompson, along with other members of the House Education and Workforce Committee, have been briefed on more than one occasion by Penn State regarding the mechanisms they have put in place since 2011 to ensure compliance with federal law. While compliance is important, it is also important that the University has made a commitment and acted in good faith to ensure the ongoing safety of students, employees and members of the community.”
State Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman agreed.
“Obviously since 2011, the board of trustees have put in many different mechanisms to prevent this from happening,” he said. “Penn State did a nice job of moving the issue forward.”
The fine adds one more line item to the cost of the Sandusky scandal, on top of things like $93 million to 32 people claiming abuse by the retired defensive coordinator and $60 million in fines from the NCAA which were converted after the sanction repeal to a $40 million fund for Pennsylvania child abuse programs and prevention and a $20 million dedicated fund for study of the issue at the university.