Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Penn State Takes First Steps to Recover after Sandusky Scandal

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Penn State Takes First Steps to Recover after Sandusky Scandal

Article excerpt

Penn State trustees, taking 'full responsibility' for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, announced initial steps to recover the university's tarnished reputation. Some say much more will have to be done, especially changing a campus culture in which sports coaches are idolized.

It's likely to take years for Penn State to fully recover from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal that has blotted the reputation of the university and its most senior officials, including legendary head football coach Joe Paterno.

But in its first meeting since the blistering investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh, the university's board of trustees has taken initial steps in that direction.

The board - which itself was criticized in the Freeh report for failing to create an environment in which much of the abuse might have been prevented - has begun by accepting what board chair Karen Peetz calls "full responsibility" for its failures.

Notably, the federal Clery Act of 1990 requiring the compilation and reporting of crime statistics, including sexual offenses, had never become policy at Penn State. Under the Clery Act - named for a young woman sexually assaulted and murdered in a Lehigh University dorm room in 1986 - Penn State officials were obliged to report Sandusky's known activities to law-enforcement officials.

"Our hearts are heavy and we are deeply ashamed," said trustee Ken Frazier. "We failed to ask the tough questions. We failed to push the issue."

IN PICTURES: Fallout from the Penn State scandal

Penn State President Rodney Erickson, who replaced Graham Spanier when the latter was fired, pronounced himself "horrified" when he learned of the allegations against Mr. Sandusky last November.

In his report to the trustees Friday, Mr. Erickson said:

"To date, Penn State has taken a number of actions including: strengthening policies and programs involving minors, including child abuse and mandated reporter training; ensuring a process for prompt reporting of abuse and sexual misconduct; hiring a new Clery Compliance Coordinator and providing Clery Act training for employees; beginning a national search for the newly created position of director of University Compliance; and restructuring within the Board of Trustees to ensure diligent governance of the University."

So far, none of the university's 32 trustees has resigned, although the board did vote to shorten terms of office from 15 years to 12 years.

How to deal with the legacy of head football coach Paterno - whose bronze statue is perhaps Penn State's most famous (now infamous) icon - is something the school's trustees say they just can't deal with now.

"It's going to take a lot of dialogue with the community," trustees chair Peetz said Friday. "We want to be reflective, we want to go slowly, and it will be something that will take a lot of deliberation. …

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