In a recent interview, David Gray, Penn State’s senior vice president of finance and business, said “don't listen to our words, follow our actions. Words can sometimes be cheap, but actions, I think, speak quite loudly.”
Fair enough. The words spoken by Penn State’s academic leaders and its trustees have stressed transparency and accountability. They speak often about having enacted almost all of Louis Freeh’s 119 recommendations. Unfortunately, however, the actions — and inactions — involving one of Freeh’s recommendations speak loudly and in the opposite direction of transparency and accountability.
Last November, a television reporter asked trustee Mark Dambly about reports that he spent five nights in jail as a result of a fight. Dambly replied that he could not recall spending five nights in jail. Last month, the same reporter revealed that Dambly is trying to have his jail stay — the one that he claimed to not remember — expunged from his record.
Recommendation 2.2.12 in the Freeh report suggests that Penn State “employees, contractors and volunteers” should undergo background checks every five years. These checks have been completed for employees and some have lost their jobs as a result.
Trustees clearly fall under the category of “volunteers,” but they have not yet been subject to background checks by Penn State. Why have the criminal records of 30 trustees not been checked while those of thousands of employees have been checked?
Mr. Gray, the actions of Penn State’s leadership regarding background checks do indeed speak loudly.