Integrity monitor cites University’s momentum in newly released report

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The University is displaying its "growing leadership in compliance" and continues its "serious, good-faith effort to embrace and adopt" change, 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.

"This is the fifth quarterly update Penn State has received from Sen. George Mitchell providing an overview of the University's changes that will help guide our actions related to ethics and integrity. I'm happy to say that we have again received a positive report," said University President Rodney Erickson. "Much like the year-end report released in September, this report filed today (Dec. 6) notes our numerous accomplishments and the dedication of University personnel in meeting or exceeding requirements."

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_5/.

Mitchell, named by the NCAA as the independent monitor for Penn State to oversee the integrity agreement, has provided periodic updates to the University and general public on the completion of virtually all of the 119 recommendations made by Judge Louis Freeh in July 2012. Freeh's recommendations are intended to improve governance, safety, policies, procedures and operations at the University. Meeting the Freeh recommendations was a requirement of the AIA.

Erickson said that, in recent conversations, Mitchell has urged University leaders to keep up the momentum that has propelled the University to date and maintain their diligence in ensuring these changes are embedded into the daily operations of the University.

"We are deeply committed to these improvements and to ongoing implementation of best practices," Erickson said. "We are now in a second phase of continuous improvement. It is clearly a priority that we intend to pursue."

Touching on nearly every part of the University, the report cited work being done in a multitude of areas, from the new compliance staffing in Intercollegiate Athletics to the presidential search, to the ongoing governance changes undertaken by the Board of Trustees.

Academic performance data of athletes released by the NCAA was also cited in the monitor's report, acknowledging that Penn State’s athletic programs achieved an aggregate 88 percent graduation success rate eight percentage points higher than the average of its Division I peers.

The report also mentioned Penn State's plans for a "second phase of efforts to improve the University in ways that go beyond the recommendations of the Freeh Report, while ensuring that changes put into place … will become embedded in the University’s structure and culture."

Over the course of the last several months, Mitchell and his team have been on the University Park campus on a number of occasions and also attended the day-long Second Annual Child Maltreatment Conference hosted by Penn State, noting that about 260 child advocates from around the state participated.

In addition, the report documented that to date, 16,882 employees and students and 2,057 volunteers have completed the “Reporting Child Abuse” online training offered by the University. Another 18,266 individuals completed in-person, classroom training in 2012 and 2013. Similarly, 2,801 employees, students and volunteers have completed online Clery Act training in addition to approximately 3,000 individuals who completed in-person, classroom training on Clery Act compliance in 2012 and 2013.

"Through this and many other initiatives during the quarter, the University continued to further its commitment to prevent child abuse and assist its victims," according to the report.

Penn State publishes status update as part of Plan for Continuous Improvement

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State has published a regular status update detailing the University’s progress on a variety of critical, ongoing strategic initiatives. With the recommendations from the Freeh Report substantially completed, Penn State administrators are moving into the second phase of the commitment to continuously review and improve its policies.

(View the latest update at http://www.psu.edu/ur/2014/Phase_II_update_Aug_2014.pdf.)

As part of the Plan for Continuous Improvement, University leadership will maintain the existing change management structure, which consists of an administrative response team, advisory council and a joint trustee/advisory council group. Regular meetings of those groups will continue, as will meetings with appropriate University leaders to discuss change initiatives. Penn State also will continue to publish status reports on a regular basis, in order to keep the community informed of progress.

The latest update outlines a comprehensive plan for a wide range of functional areas, including ethics, culture and values; governance; legal, risk, compliance and audit; safety and security; youth programs; training and development; human resources administration; communications; policy review and development; and athletics. Continuous improvement also will play a role in University-wide initiatives including the replacement of the student information system, and the Human Resources Transformation project.

David Gray, senior vice president for Finance and Business at Penn State, said the effort will build upon the positive momentum of the past year and a half.

“We are committed to the process of reform and improvement at the University, and the model we have established has been effective in helping us to meet our goals,” Gray said. “Ultimately, it is our charge as university leaders to maintain and strengthen Penn State’s position as a world-class academic institution and as a great place for faculty and staff members to build a rewarding career. A dedicated focus on continuous improvement always will be critical to those efforts.”

Settlements announced for Sandusky victims

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State officials announced today (Oct. 28) that over the past few months the University has reached agreement with 26 of the victims of former assistant football coach Gerald Sandusky. The terms of the settlements, which include a release of all claims against Penn State and other parties, are subject to confidentiality agreements. Of the 26 settlements, 23 are fully signed and three are agreed in principle, with final documentation expected within the next few weeks.

The aggregate dollar amount paid by the University for the 26 settled claims is $59.7 million and will be reflected in the University’s audited financial statements for the year ended June 30, 2013.

"The Board of Trustees has had as one of its primary objectives to reach settlements in a way that is fair and respects the privacy of the individuals involved,” said Keith Masser, chair of the Board of Trustees. "This is another important milestone in accomplishing that goal. I would like to thank the board’s Legal and Compliance Committee, as well as its Legal Subcommittee for its leadership throughout this process.”

“We hope this is another step forward in the healing process for those hurt by Mr. Sandusky, and another step forward for Penn State,” said University President Rodney Erickson. “We cannot undo what has been done, but we can and must do everything possible to learn from this and ensure it never happens again at Penn State.”

The settlement amounts will not be funded by student tuition, taxpayer funds or donations, according to officials. The University maintains various liability insurance policies, which the University believes cover the settlements and defense of claims brought against Penn State and its officers, employees and trustees. Expenses not covered by insurance are expected to be funded from interest revenues related to loans made by the University to its self-supporting units.

Penn State has received claims from 32 individuals who were or allege that they were victims of Sandusky. The University has rejected certain of the six remaining claims as being without merit and has engaged others in possible settlement discussions. The University retained the law firm of Feinberg Rozen LLP to act as independent third-party facilitators of the settlement negotiations between the University and the victims.

"I would like to thank Ken Feinberg and Michael Rozen for their efforts to facilitate the settlements," Erickson said. "Their expertise and efforts have been invaluable to our ability to reach mutually acceptable resolutions in the large majority of the claims."

Over the past year, Penn State has instituted more than 115 changes related to safety, human resources, security, compliance and governance. Through self-imposed urgency, the Board of Trustees, administration and staff have brought sweeping reform and best practice processes to nearly every aspect of the University’s governance and oversight. In doing so, the University considered the recommendations of multiple parties to determine the best course forward, including but not limited to the Pennsylvania Auditor General, Penn State University Faculty Senate and the Freeh Report recommendations.

“We have made great strides, but a great deal of work remains,” Erickson said. “Our University is a better institution today as a result of the work and dedication of our trustees, administrators, faculty, staff and students."

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.

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