Penn State

Penn State Faculty Senate won't back critics of NCAA sanctions, Freeh report

In a close vote, Penn State Faculty Senate chose not to back a statement by former Senate leaders that’s sharply critical of the NCAA sanctions and parts of the Louis Freeh report.

Faculty senators voted 93 to 83 Tuesday against endorsing the statement, which 30 former chairmen had presented at the August meeting. The position says in part that “the NCAA has used its assertion of collective guilt to justify its collective punishment of the entire university community, almost all of whom had absolutely no involvement in or knowledge of the underlying crimes or the administration’s allegedly insufficient response.”

The decision followed a vote — 134 to 32, not including online ballots — against a separate motion to send the NCAA a letter saying it was wrong in criticizing the culture at Penn State and that the sanctions are unfair to student athletes. The NCAA sanctions follow the university board-commissioned report by Louis Freeh into the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Freeh came to the conclusion that top leaders tried to cover up abuse by Sandusky.

Thomas Beebee, a faculty representative with the College of the Liberal Arts, spoke against both motions, saying while he appreciated the thinking behind them, he doesn’t believe they’re the way to communicate to other bodies or the general public.

He said if the Senate wants to pass a statement it should be one affirming support for something such as the efforts of the administration to make the university more accountable.

“But I think that arguing with existing bodies is not the route to go,” Beebee said.

John Nousek, with the Eberly College of Science, also spoke against the motions, saying the Faculty Senate’s role should focus on goals going forward and procedures to prevent similar situations from happening again.

He said the Faculty Senate won’t get much traction in other areas, that “I think will just be a total waste of time on the part of the faculty to engage in.”

Patricia Koch, with the College of Health and Human Development, had made the motion to endorse the statement by the former faculty chairmen. She said the document is an analysis that points out poor logic and issues about due process.

Psychology professor Keith Nelson had made the motion to endorse a statement that parts of the Freeh report and the NCAA sanctions about Penn State’s culture are false. Penn State has a great record when it comes to athletic integrity in areas including athletes’ grades and a lack of gambling, cheating and breaks for donors, he said

“All of those things we have done well are falsely slandered by the Freeh report, falsely slandered by the NCAA,” he said.

Faculty senators opted against endorsing either statement.

But, Chairman Larry Backer said earlier in the meeting that a task force has been charged with reviewing the Freeh group recommendations and the NCAA ruling.

President Rodney Erickson also spoke at the meeting. He said the U.S. Department of Education’s investigation into the university’s compliance with the Clery Act is “winding down.” A report is expected “in the not too distant future,” and the university will be able to respond in the upcoming months, Erickson said. The Freeh investigation found that the university wasn’t properly complying with the Clery Act — which sets requirements for reporting crime — and the university has since taken steps to meet the regulations.