Trustees approve resolution to monitor proceedings related to Freeh Report

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State Board of Trustees on Oct. 28 approved a resolution put forth by Vice Chair Kathleen Casey calling for the board to continue to monitor pending or future criminal and civil, governmental and administrative proceedings that may shed light on the Freeh Report’s findings. According to the resolution, the board will determine whether any action is “appropriate and in the best interests of the University” when all such investigations have concluded. The vote on the resolution was 17 for, 8 against, and 1 vote to abstain.

WATCH IT NOW: Full coverage of Tuesday's meeting is available for viewing on YouTube.

The Freeh Report was produced by independent law firm Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan, which was hired in November 2011 in the wake of the sexual abuse scandal of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. The Board of Trustees reaffirmed its intention that “providing a safe and secure environment for our students, faculty and staff, and children who participate in Penn State programs and activities, and meeting all of our compliance and ethical obligations” should be one of the top priorities of the Board.

Penn State took action to complete 118 of the 119 recommendations for improving safety, ethics and human resource processes, as well as expanding legal and risk reporting protocols. University administrators continue to scrutinize processes and procedures as part of the second phase of a Plan for Continuous Improvement, which is a comprehensive commitment to improve policies, operations and critical strategic initiatives.

Trustee Albert Lord proposed an amended version of his original motion, which had been on the table since the July meeting of the Board. The resolution proposed the appointment of an ad hoc committee to examine the Freeh Report, review undisclosed communications between Freeh and University officials and trustees, and to report its findings to the Board. By a vote of 17 to 9, the board voted against the revised resolution.

Trustee Alice Pope was among the nine who advocated for Lord’s resolution and said,“The question before us today is: What is in the best interest of our university? I will make the argument that what is in the best interest of the university is to behave like a university. What characterizes a university is a quest for knowledge – we should stand behind the best available information and share it widely.”

Trustee Kathleen Casey, who spoke in favor of the resolution that ultimately was adopted, said that if the Board were to reexamine the findings of the Freeh report, it would face many of the same challenges faced by Freeh during his investigation.

The resolution states that any further attempt by the Board to investigate matters previously investigated by Freeh would be subject to the same or greater limitations to which Freeh was subject, including a lack of subpoena power; lack of access to documents in possession of third parties; and lack of full and unfettered access to all relevant parties.  It also states “the Board is neither expert nor experienced in resolving issues of conflicting facts, interpretation and credibility” needed to conduct such an investigation and reach definitive conclusions.

Trustee Richard Dandrea said that until the legal proceedings attached to the Sandusky scandal are concluded, there can be no comprehensive evaluation of the Freeh report.  Dandrea said that it is possible that additional evidence from any legal proceeding could render “moot what would be at best a premature attempt to address these questions.”

“Penn State reviewed and analyzed the recommendations made by Freeh and implemented substantially all such recommendations in ways that have strengthened the University’s compliance, safety, governance, child protection and other functions, many of which have been cited in the reports of Athletics Integrity Monitor Sen. George Mitchell and elsewhere as leading standards and practices,” said Casey. The board, she said, will continue to actively monitor ongoing investigations and, when they conclude, will determine whether any action related to the Freeh Report is appropriate and in the best interests of Penn State.

"This is the responsible thing to do,” Board Chair Keith Masser said of the resolution. “Various legal cases need to run their course, and then we can decide whether any further steps should be taken at that time. The decision today now allows this Board to focus on the University's critical mission of educating our young people.”

The next full, regular meeting of the Board of Trustees will take place on Nov. 13 and 14 at the Penn State Conference Center and Hotel on the University Park campus. More information, including an agenda, will be made available at http://www.psu.edu/trustees/meetings.html as the meeting date approaches.

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

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State has published the latest update to its ongoing work on policies, training, communications, governance, safety, security, compliance and a host of other matters -- all aimed at improving University operations, mitigating risk and maintaining a leadership role in higher education. To view the report, go here: http://www.psu.edu/ur/2014/Phase_II_update_Aug_2014.pdf.

In November 2013, administrators announced plans to renew the University’s pledge to improvement and change management that had been started as part of fulfilling the 119 recommendations of the Freeh Report. Known as the Plan for Continuous Improvement, it is the second phase of a comprehensive effort by Penn State leadership to review and improve policies, operations and critical strategic initiatives.

“The Plan for Continuous Improvement is yielding a large number of changes and improvements that are putting Penn State in the forefront of compliance, ethics, governance and organizational restructuring within higher education,” said David Gray, senior vice president for finance and business. “Our latest update focuses on a wide range of functional areas that we believe can be more productive, more innovative and the best example of a world-class institution.”

Most of the ongoing initiatives listed in the online update involve policy review and development, education, communications, safety, administration, athletics, compliance, culture and values and youth programs.

Some projects in the update, such as the implementation of a new student information system and a new human resources information system, and the modifications required to control and monitor access to the University’s recreational facilities, require large capital investments and currently involve formal project management teams that are overseeing the process and monitoring progress.

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.

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