NCAA reduces sanctions following report from integrity monitor

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The NCAA Executive Committee has modified the Penn State football bowl and scholarship limitations previously imposed by the consent decree between the University and the NCAA. The action comes following today’s release of another positive annual report and recommendations by Sen. George Mitchell, the independent, third-party athletics integrity monitor for Penn State.

The Penn State football team will be eligible for a bowl game beginning this season, and scholarship limitations will be restored to the full complement of 85 beginning in 2015. All financial penalties remain in place.

Concurrently, the Big Ten announced Penn State would be eligible to play in the Big Ten Championship game starting this season.

“Senator Mitchell’s report and recommendations, along with the actions taken by the NCAA today, are a recognition of the hard work of many over the past two years to make Penn State a stronger institution,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “This is welcome news for the University community, particularly for our current and future student-athletes."

This is the second annual report issued by Mitchell, who was named by the NCAA as the independent monitor for Penn State to oversee the Athletics Integrity Agreement signed by Penn State, the Big Ten and the NCAA. He has provided quarterly updates to the University and general public on the University’s compliance with the Athletics Integrity Agreement.

“This report is a welcome acknowledgement of the University’s efforts,” said Board of Trustees Chair Keith Masser. “Such a massive undertaking has made Penn State a national model in an array of university functions – including compliance, safety and security. I commend President Barron and his predecessor, Rodney Erickson, for their tremendous leadership throughout this process. The Board of Trustees is committed to the continued monitoring and improvement of university policies, procedures and actions.”

“We look forward to continuing to work with Sen. Mitchell,” Barron added.

The full Mitchell report is available at http://www.dlapiper.com/~/media/Files/Insights/Publications/2014/09/NCAAMonitorsSecondAnnualReport.pdf

“I am very happy for Coach Franklin, the coaches and staff and most importantly, our outstanding football student-athletes, said Penn State Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour. “I am gratified for the student-athletes who have remained resilient, committed and dedicated to Penn State during the past three years. We will continue to work hard and strive for integrity and academic and athletic excellence every day and to provide our student-athletes with the best experience possible.”

Penn State football coach James Franklin expressed his gratitude as well.

“We are very appreciative of the opportunities the NCAA and Big Ten have provided with today’s announcement,” Franklin said. “This team plays for each other. We play for Penn State, our families, the former players, our students, alumni, fans and the community. We are so proud to represent Penn State and the Big Ten Conference and are working hard to prepare for our Big Ten opener at Rutgers.”

Barron also praised students and coaches for their efforts.

“Our student-athletes and our entire student-body are to be commended for their resiliency and spirit during a challenging time,” Barron said. “We also are grateful for the dedication and commitment to success on and off the field of our football student-athletes, and the leadership of Coach James Franklin and Coach Bill O’Brien before him.”

Integrity monitor cites University’s continued progress in newly released report

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State has continued to make progress on initiatives undertaken in response to recommendations made in the Freeh Report, according to the latest quarterly report tracking Penn State's progress in meeting the goals of the Athletics Integrity Agreement (AIA) signed by Penn State, the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference. The complete text of the report and information about actions Penn State has taken is available at http://www.dlapiper.com/en/us/insights/publications/2014/05/7th-penn-state-report/ online.

"On May 14, 2014, I met with Dr. Eric Barron and Dr. Rodney Erickson, Penn State's present and immediate past presidents," said Sen. George Mitchell, in his report. "Dr. Barron pledged that I would continue to receive complete cooperation from the University, as has been the case since the inception of my duties." Mitchell was named by the NCAA as the independent monitor to oversee Penn State's Athletics Integrity Agreement, a five-year appointment that began in 2012.

"I'm pleased with how quickly the institution responded and how much has been accomplished in the way of compliance and the dedication to improving our processes," said President Barron. "Penn State has taken the recommendations seriously, has made enormous progress and has become a model institution for addressing issues like this. We plan to remain on this track of continuous improvement."

Among its activities during this reporting quarter, Penn State:

-- through the Office of Ethics and Compliance adopted a compliance plan approved by a committee of the Board of Trustees. The compliance plan addresses standards of conduct; governance; reporting lines and delegation of authority; training and education; monitoring and auditing; program promotion; discipline; and remediation.

-- Intercollegiate Athletics compliance department became the first in the country with five members certified by the National Association for Athletics Compliance ("NAAC");

-- hosted its third annual conference on child protection and well-being and continued its support of organizations striving to end child sexual abuse and to assist its victims;

-- continued installation of access controls and security measures at its athletics and recreational facilities to ensure adherence to Penn State policies, both at University Park and on its Commonwealth Campuses, with a goal of ensuring the access controls are fully operational for the start of the 2014-15 academic year; and

-- commissioned a team of administrators and public safety professionals to support its Clery Act compliance program; and began to review policies, procedures and training programs concerning child safety and abuse prevention to ensure their consistency with newly enacted state laws.

Mitchell and his team made a number of visits to the University Park campus during the past quarter to meet with former President Erickson and current President Barron, the administration response team, the Ethics and Compliance Council, several vice presidents and other administrators, and several other councils and working groups.

Members of Mitchell's team also attended Board of Trustees meetings in March and May, participated in a meeting of the Faculty Senate Intercollegiate Athletics Committee and attended a training session held for coaches, athletics administrators and other "covered persons" designed to satisfy the AIA's annual athletics compliance training requirement.

In the coming quarter, Mitchell will continue to monitor the University's progress toward fulfilling its obligations in connection with the AIA and NCAA Consent Decree. His second annual report, due in September, will more comprehensively review Penn State's work to comply with the AIA's annual obligations. It also will cover the progress made toward completing long-term, capital-intensive projects undertaken in response to the Freeh recommendations, and adjustments made to University policies, procedures and training in response to recently enacted Pennsylvania legislation.

Board considers permanent seat for student representative

HERSHEY, Pa. – The Penn State Board of Trustees considered changes to its charter and bylaws today (March 6), including the creation of a permanent seat for a student trustee.

The Committee on Governance and Long-Range Planning listened to a proposal that would ensure that a student presence is specified in the board's governance documents.

For four decades, students have been represented on the Board of Trustees by a student chosen from an identified pool of interested and eligible candidates. In the past, the name of the student who is selected from this pool has been forwarded by the governor to the Pennsylvania Senate for confirmation. The longstanding process is at the discretion of the governor. Historically, the governor has opted to designate one of the six governor-appointed seats on the 32-member board as a student trustee, but this tradition has not been codified.

The change, which would require a vote of the full board in May to be enacted, is supported by the University Park Undergraduate Association, the Council of Commonwealth Student Governments and the Graduate Student Association.

Under the changes proposed in the meeting, the action would specifically designate a trustee to represent the student body, with a two-year term unless the student trustee ceases to meet the criteria set forth in the bylaws. The criteria spelled out for a student trustee is that he or she be an undergraduate, graduate, professional or World Campus student in a degree-seeking program and in good academic standing. By a vote of 8-1, the committee agreed to move the proposal forward.

Also two proposals approved by the committee in January will be taken up by the full board on Friday (March 7):

-- Alumni trustee nomination and election ballots will now be sent electronically to qualified electors who have a valid email address on file in the University’s alumni records. Previously, only individuals who were active members of the Alumni Association or donors of the University automatically received a ballot.

-- A change to the bylaws that will modify and clarify the types of real estate and other capital transactions to be brought to the board for approval and informational purposes.

Matters that would now require the approval of the Board of Trustees include the purchase of land and other real estate with a purchase price of $1 million or more, the sale of land and other real estate with the exception of sales with a price of less than $3 million gifted to the University for the express purpose of sale, and honorific names for individual buildings and roads. Also under the change, the Board of Trustees would be required to receive “thorough and forthright reports on the affairs” on matters such as new construction or renovations projects with a total cost equal to or greater than $1 million but less than $5 million, the purchase of real estate with a purchase price of less than $1 million, and proceeds from the sale of land and other real estate with a sale price of less than $3 million gifted to the University for the express purpose of sale.

Penn State clarifies: It is not a willing party to NCAA lawsuit

Lawyers for the family of the late Joe Paterno and others have filed an amended complaint in their case against the NCAA and have named Penn State as a defendant. The University has issued the following statement in response to the filing:

“Penn State is deeply disappointed that the Paterno family, four individual trustees and others have added Penn State as a party in their lawsuit against the NCAA.  Penn State will do its best to mitigate the expense, disruption to its operations and harm to its mission and interests, which are caused by the forced and unwilling inclusion of the University as a defendant in a dispute between private parties.

The Board has not authorized the individual trustee plaintiffs to sue as trustees or to bring claims on behalf of the University. Due to concerns with serious conflicts of interest that already exist, Board leadership urged the trustee plaintiffs to end their involvement in the lawsuit. Instead, these conflicts of interest and the harm to the University have been made worse by the actions of the four Trustee plaintiffs and others in seeking to force the University to be a party in this litigation.

Penn State remains committed to full compliance with the Consent Decree and the Athletics Integrity Agreement. We look forward to continuing to work with Sen. George Mitchell in pursuit of these objectives.”

The original lawsuit against the NCAA was filed by the Paterno family on May 29, 2013.

Fighting the good fight: Penn State Hershey uses IT to prevent child abuse

Dr. Benjamin Levi knows there’s power in information.

As director for the Center for the Protection of Children (CPC) at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Levi and his team are working on several technologies to help streamline and standardize child abuse reporting methods and intervention data organization.

“The center is in the process of improving methods old and new for gathering and storing information throughout the entire investigation process,” Levi explained. “From providing more information resources and a better way to report suspected abuse to designing a new database for tracking and analyzing data for children with suspected abuse, we’re developing innovative tools for our team to better help children.”

To achieve its goals of preventing maltreatment, improving reporting rates, and providing the best care for children who have experienced abuse, the CPC — founded in December 2011 — is collaborating with Penn State information technology (IT) staff to build new digital assets.

Last year, the CPC reached out to the instructional designers in Teaching and Learning with Technology, a unit within Information Technology Services (ITS) at University Park, for support in designing a new e-learning program aimed at early childhood professionals throughout Pennsylvania called iLook Out for Child Abuse.

“Children ages birth through 4 are the most vulnerable to abuse,” Levi said. “And yet of the more than 26,000 reports of suspected abuse made in Pennsylvania last year, only 451 came from early childhood professionals — which suggests that many cases are being missed. iLook Out for Child Abuse focuses on early childhood professionals so that child care providers can be both informed and prepared to report maltreatment when there is ‘reasonable suspicion’ that a child may be being abused or neglected.”

The online training will consist of multimedia, interactive modules to help individuals identify risk factors and signs of abuse. The program will be available online through a learning management system and will be free.

It will also point users to the newly enhanced Pennsylvania Look Out for Child Abuse form, an online resource at www.reportsuspectedabuse.com for reporting suspected maltreatment of children. This innovative tool is designed to increase the efficiency and accuracy of information transfer to secure state databases. Eventually, it will be used to research reporting practices, using de-identified data, and to help improve standards for what is reported, how it is reported and how that information is processed.

John Soubik said this kind of improved communication is key in every step of the reporting and evaluation process. Soubik, a former county child welfare investigator and 1985 Penn State alumnus, presented the annual de Lissovoy lecture on child welfare at the University in October.

“It’s so important that people communicate at every step of an investigation,” Soubik said. “Reporting has to be accurate and meticulous notes have to be kept at every step. When I was an investigator, there was no centralized database and information could be easily lost. The new repository will be extremely helpful.”

Not only will the database help keep information secure and organized, but it will also aid in preventing abuse. Levi explained that as the repository grows, research will be done on patterns and demographics to help predict which children may be most at risk for abuse.

“If we look at our records and notice a particular family with multiple risk factors that has repeatedly brought in a young child for small issues, that might alert us that these are parents who are stressed and overwhelmed, for whom assistance could help prevent abuse” Levi said. “By better identifying patterns that indicate risk, we create opportunities to provide information and support that not only serves as a resource for parents, but could help them readjust expectations so that their frustration goes down, rather than escalating into abuse.”

As the CPC grows, it will continue to build on the strong foundation provided by Penn State Hershey and the University as a whole.

“The seeds we have planted are beginning to shoot up. But to grow to their potential and provide the canopy of protection we envision,” Levi said, “we need support. The work we are doing requires a team approach and resources that aren’t easy to come by. That’s our goal for the coming year — to garner the resources we need to do this well.”

The work of the CPC fits into the University’s larger initiative of increasing child abuse awareness generally. Within the Penn State community all students, faculty and staff have already completed University-based online training.

“There are cases that go undetected, which is why this kind of training is so important,” Levi said. “Once we have an even better idea of the true number of abuse cases, we’ll be able to make sure we have the resources for the necessary interventions. And when that happens, we’ll be able to measure — and increase — how effective those interventions are.”

As for Soubik, he understands the importance of having as much information as possible for an effective intervention — and despite the difficulties he faced as a child welfare investigation, he said that it was all worth it.

“It was a very challenging job because there was always the chance of making the wrong call without having all of the necessary information at your fingertips. It would have been terrible to not remove a child for lack of information and subject him or her to even more abuse or neglect, or to have someone falsely accused,” he said. “But the times I made a difference for the better in someone’s life were very gratifying and made it all worth it.”

And that’s a powerful thing.

To learn how to help the CPC, visit http://www.pennstatehershey.org/web/protection-of-children/home/donate.

To report suspected child abuse, go to http://www.pennstatehershey.org/web/protection-of-children/home/reporting.

For more stories about IT at Penn State, visit Current at http://current.it.psu.edu/.

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This website is the University's official information resource designed to anchor communications discussing issues from 2011 to today, including ongoing legal matters, in addition to providing updates on the initiatives we've put in place to address the serious issue of child abuse.

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