Penn State officials react to NCAA modification of football sanctions

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State officials are gratified by the decision of the NCAA Executive Committee to modify the scholarship limitations previously imposed on the University under the consent decree between the University and the NCAA. This action, announced today, taken in recognition of Penn State's significant progress under and continued compliance with the Athletics Integrity Agreement, grants immediate relief from both the initial scholarship restrictions and overall team limit restrictions previously imposed on the University's football program. This modification will restore a total of 65 scholarship opportunities for football student athletes wanting to attend Penn State.

To read a statement from the NCAA, visit: http://www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/public/ncaa/resources/latest+news/2013/september/executive+committee+to+gradually+restore+penn+state+scholarships.

Specifically, the amendment to the consent decree increases the limit on initial football scholarships from 15 to 20 for the 2014-2015 academic year, and from 15 to 25 for each of the next three seasons.  In addition, the amendment increases the overall football team limit of 65 total scholarships to allow for 75 total scholarships in the 2014-2015 academic year, 80 total scholarships in the 2015-2016 academic year, and 85 total scholarships (the NCAA limit for football) for each of the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 academic years.

"The action taken today by the NCAA, following its review of the positive report issued this month by Sen. George Mitchell, recognizes the significant efforts over the past year to make Penn State a safer, stronger institution," said Penn State President Rodney Erickson.  "This news is certainly welcome to our University community, particularly the student athletes who may want to attend Penn State and will now have the means to do so. As we promised throughout this process, we are committed to continuing to improve all of our policies, procedures and actions."

Sen. Mitchell is the independent, third-party athletics integrity monitor for Penn State who published a report on Sept. 6 indicating that Penn State has substantially completed the initial implementation of all of the Freeh recommendations and all of its annual obligations under the Athletics Integrity Agreement (AIA). The report includes Mitchell’s impartial external review of Penn State’s efforts to implement the 119 recommendations made by Judge Louis Freeh in July 2012. Under the AIA, the University was obligated to take all reasonable steps to implement the recommendations by Dec. 31, 2013. The University, the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference entered into the AIA in August 2012 as part of the consent decree imposed by the NCAA. The agreement contains a number of prescriptive measures designed to ensure that the University continues to meet or exceed all applicable NCAA and Big Ten rules and standards of integrity.

Erickson thanked Head Coach Bill O'Brien for his leadership during this critical time and for his dedication to his players and to the University through the past two difficult seasons. He also acknowledged the work of student athletes, both on the field and in the classroom.

"The resiliency displayed by those young men, as well as our entire student body is something of which we are proud," Erickson said. "I would also like to thank the literally hundreds of University administrators, faculty, staff, students and alumni whose hard work over the past 15 months helped lay the groundwork not only for this action by the NCAA but, even more importantly, for a better Penn State."

Penn State officials vow continued focus on positive change

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Sen. George Mitchell, the independent, third-party athletics integrity monitor for Penn State, reported today (Sept. 6) that the University has substantially completed the initial implementation of all of the Freeh recommendations and all of its annual obligations under the Athletics Integrity Agreement (AIA). The report includes Mitchell’s impartial external review of Penn State’s efforts to implement the 119 recommendations made by Judge Louis Freeh in July 2012. Under the AIA, the University was obligated to take all reasonable steps to implement the recommendations made in the Freeh Report by Dec. 31, 2013.

“There is still more to be done, but we are very pleased that our efforts have been recognized by Sen. Mitchell in his latest report that validates the substantial reforms that have been implemented over the past 18 months,” said Penn State President Rodney Erickson. “The favorable report is a significant milestone for us, but it does not represent the conclusion of our efforts. We are keeping our teams in place and are embarking with a sustained sense of urgency on the next phase of our plan to continuously improve our governance, policies and procedures and operations.”

The complete text of the report and information about actions Penn State has taken is available at http://www.dlapiper.com/ncaa_penn_state_report_4/.

The senator’s report notes Penn State’s comprehensive completion of the implementation of virtually all of the recommendations made by Judge Freeh. Among other things, the report notes with approval the governance reforms enacted by the University's Board of Trustees; the work of Penn State’s chief ethics and compliance officer and athletics integrity officer; the significant work being done to coordinate youth programming, including the hiring of a full time youth program coordinator; and the development, review and improvement of a number of University policies and procedures in areas such as police, safety, risk management and human resources. The sum total of these efforts represents an institution-wide, top down and bottom-up effort to reinforce and strengthen the University’s commitment to integrity and core values.

Sen. Mitchell’s report concludes that “While parties may continue to argue about the history that led to the Freeh Report and the AIA, a consensus has developed that the principles at the heart of these reforms are best practices for the governance of any large university.   Penn State’s Phase II plan of action assures the monitor that the University has embraced the Freeh Report’s recommendations as a roadmap supporting long-term enhancement. It demonstrates that, even after the Dec. 31, 2013, deadline for completion is long-since passed, Penn State plans to continue to be guided by the recommendations in its mission to establish effective ethics, compliance and governance programs, support the physical safety of all individuals on its campuses and promote athletics integrity.”

"We are working to become a national model for our policies, practices and procedures in youth programming, athletics, safety and security, human resources, compliance, reporting and responding to wrongdoing and other critical University functions,” Erickson added. "While the consent decree and the Athletics Integrity Agreement gave us until Dec. 31, 2013, to complete the 119 recommendations, we have met that deadline with four months to spare. We can now use the momentum and successes of the past 18 months to move into the next phase was we continue to monitor, review and improve our governance, operations and policies in a structured and disciplined way. We, of course, will report publicly on our continued efforts and progress.”

Keith Masser, chairman of the Board of Trustees, echoed Erickson’s statements and also thanked the countless number of University administrators, faculty, staff and students who devoted literally thousands of hours over the past 18 months toward the implementation of Judge Freeh’s recommendations.

“These have been massive undertakings that have required the cooperation and collaboration of all parts of the University community,” Masser said. “Work on some of these reform initiatives began with the receipt of Judge Freeh’s interim recommendations back in January 2012 and will continue.”

Masser said he is impressed by the diligent and focused efforts of the entire Penn State team and confident that the University is on the right course now and into the future.

The University, the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference entered into the Athletics Integrity Agreement in August 2012 as part of the consent decree imposed by the NCAA. The agreement contains a number of prescriptive measures designed to ensure that the University continues to meet or exceed all applicable NCAA and Big Ten rules and standards of integrity. A review of the University’s progress by an external monitor like Sen. Mitchell was one of the recommendations made by Judge Freeh.

With the approval of the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference, Sen. Mitchell’s team will continue its independent evaluation of Penn State’s activities and a report outlining actions taken will continue to be produced on a quarterly basis. Mitchell's five-year appointment as the University's independent monitor began in August 2012. Mitchell's previous update was issued May 31.

Penn State names youth programs compliance specialist

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Sandy Weaver has been named youth programs compliance specialist at Penn State. Weaver, whose position has been newly created, will report to the director of university ethics and compliance and will oversee compliance with University policies and procedures focused on the protection of children who participate in youth programs at Penn State. Weaver began in her new position on July 1.

“Sandy is an excellent choice for this position, and will play an integral role in Penn State’s Office of University Ethics and Compliance,” said Regis Becker, director of university ethics and compliance. “Sandy brings with her significant experience in compliance, child advocacy and welfare at a national level and with large, complex organizations. Combined, her experiences have created a strong foundation that will serve the University well.”

Weaver’s position was created as part of the ongoing work to implement changes and improvements in many parts of the University, including youth activities. In her role, she will maintain an inventory of youth activities at all Penn State campus locations, and of all off-campus, University-sponsored youth activities. She also will provide guidance and interpretation of applicable policies, and will review and update procedures based on current best practices, legal updates and policy compliance, among other duties.

Weaver’s professional work includes time in North Carolina’s Administrative Office of the Courts, where she oversaw a group of trained, independent advocates who promoted the best interests of abused, neglected and dependent children within the state court system. Also among her extensive work in compliance and human services, she served as director of program development and compliance for Northwestern Human Services, where she developed policies, procedures and training programs for staff throughout Pennsylvania to ensure ethical interactions with children in their care. She also has long experience in medical education, including seven years with OptumHealth Education, where she oversaw a national program that identified potential areas of risk and ensured that programs were in compliance with all regulatory policies and guidelines.

“I am honored and humbled to have been selected to serve as Penn State’s first youth programs compliance specialist,” Weaver said. “Across the commonwealth, Penn State offers a wide variety of quality educational and enrichment opportunities for youth. As adults, we have a shared responsibility to go above and beyond to protect the children in our communities. I look forward to collaboration with my colleagues in the Office of University Ethics and Compliance and across the University to continue current practices and develop new policies, procedures and programs focused on the protection of youth, regardless of where they are being served.”

Weaver also plans to convene a University-wide youth programs council, focused on developing resources and establishing standardized processes for all individuals involved with youth programming across the University.

Weaver received a bachelor’s degree in education from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in psychology from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. She has maintained professional associations with several national organizations, including the Global Alliance for Medical Education and the American Society for Training and Development; and leadership roles with the Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions and the National Association of Medical Education Companies. She also is a member of the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics, and as a certified Six Sigma Green Belt she brings experience in leading teams to review and improve upon systems and processes as ongoing quality enhancement of programs.

Penn State and others to use bowl revenues for child protection

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Twelve Big Ten schools, including Penn State, each have been given a portion of what would have been Penn State's football bowl revenues from the past season to distribute to child-focused causes they deem appropriate.

Officials in the Big Ten Conference are providing $188,344 to each university to donate to a local organization of their choice, whose primary focus is on protecting children and advocacy on behalf of children. The money for each school represents one-twelfth of the revenue Penn State would have earned during the 2013 bowl season -- a total of nearly $2.3 million -- had the Nittany Lions been allowed to participate.

Penn State was banned from 2013 bowl game participation as part of Big Ten sanctions that were handed down following the investigation of child sexual abuse by former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. The NCAA also banned the Nittany Lions football program from competing in postseason play for four years and imposed a series of penalties and corrective actions.

Penn State has opted to channel its funds through the Centre County United Way with instructions to split the money equally between the Stewards of Children program and the Children's Advocacy Center.

Stewards of Children is an awareness program that teaches adults how to prevent, recognize and report child sexual abuse. The program is designed for organizations that serve youth and for individuals concerned about the safety of children. It is the only nationally distributed, evidence-based program proven to increase knowledge, improve attitudes and change child protective behaviors.

"This is a transformational gift that will assure Stewards of Children continues in Centre County and that we meet and exceed our goal of training 5 percent of all residents," said Tammy Gentzel, executive director of the Centre County United Way. "Increasing awareness among adults in our community will help to ensure that all children in the county live in a safe environment."

The Centre County United Way, Centre County Women’s Resource Center, Centre County Youth Service Bureau and YMCA of Centre County have partnered to bring the program to county residents, with a goal of training 5,000 adults -- the “tipping” point that will ensure that every child in the county has contact with an adult who has received training to create and maintain a safe environment for our youth.

The Children's Advocacy Center, an idea originally fostered by Centre County Judge Bradley P. Lunsford and others, will provide a centralized location for all of the necessary services for children who have been abused, including medical services, and will be operated by Mount Nittany Health in offices located in Bellefonte, Pa. The current process requires multiple interviews of the child with different people at different locations. It also requires the child to travel to receive specialized medical care and exams.

"These funds will further our efforts to protect our children and to minimize the trauma that children experience when they are victimized," Lunsford said. "I am grateful to President Erickson and the Penn State community for recognizing the importance of our endeavors and validating our cause."

"As a community, we must continue to look deeper into the issue of child maltreatment and abuse," said Penn State President Rodney Erickson. "We must commit to continuing to raise awareness, as well as fight these insidious crimes in whatever way possible."

Following its 2011 football season, Penn State formed a partnership with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and committed $1.5 million from its share of that year's Big Ten bowl revenues to fund a variety of initiatives, including the Penn State Hershey Center for the Protection of Children.

Third annual conference on Child Protection and Well-Being set for May 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s third annual Conference on Child Protection and Well-Being is scheduled for May 5-6, 2014, at the Nittany Lion Inn on the University Park campus. The two-day conference will focus on “Parenting, Family Processes and Intervention” and feature presentations and panel discussions from top researchers in the field.

Speakers include internationally renowned experts in family studies and child maltreatment research. Four sessions will target an array of topics within the study of family processes and child maltreatment transmission, intervention and prevention.

Conference organizer Douglas Teti, professor of human development, psychology and pediatrics, said he’s pleased with the amount of interest the event has received, and excited to get some of the “greatest minds in the field in one room to talk.”

“We have a pretty impressive agenda lined up,” he said. “It’s going to be a great forum for discussion and learning from a variety of disciplinary directions.”

Conference presenters include researchers, clinicians and practitioners from around the country who together will provide a wealth of knowledge on parent and family factors in child maltreatment.

The topics of the sessions are: (1) Child Maltreatment and Family Processes, (2) Intergenerational Transmission of Child Maltreatment, (3) Intervening with Maltreated Children and Their Families, and (4) Family-Focused Approaches to Preventing Child Maltreatment: Current Efforts, Future Directions.

Public registration, the full agenda and other details on the conference will be released later this year.

Launched in fall 2012 from a recommendation by the Presidential Task Force on Child Maltreatment, the Network on Child Protection and Well-Being is the driving force of the University’s academic activities in research, education and practice aimed at combating child maltreatment. The Network’s mission includes increasing awareness and evidence-based knowledge on the prevention, detection and treatment of child abuse.

The Network will welcome the first three of at least 12 new hires who will bolster Penn State’s expertise in the area. Jennie Noll, who will speak at the conference, and Chad Shenk, both in human development and family studies, and Lori Frasier in pediatrics are the first recruits of the "cluster" hire. They will join the Penn State faculty this fall semester. Idan Shalev, assistant professor of biobehavioral health, will join the Network in the spring.

The conference series will continue the Network’s efforts to target a range of issues pertaining to child maltreatment. On Sept. 25, 2013, Penn State’s second annual conference will bring together district attorneys, children and youth service professionals, law enforcement officials and medical professionals as well as Penn State faculty members to discuss “Protecting Pennsylvania’s Children by Building Multidisciplinary Investigative Teams/Child Advocacy Centers.”

Last October, the University held its inaugural conference, which featured experts in child sexual abuse and child trauma research, prevention and treatment.

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