Board of trustees gets update on Network on Child Protection and Well-Being

Penn State's Network on Child Protection and Well-Being has hired six faculty researchers and has searches in progress for six others, with a goal of translating knowledge into practice and policy aimed at combating child maltreatment, Susan McHale told the Board of Trustees today (Jan. 17).

"Child maltreatment is a complex and systemic problem that is difficult to study and hard to treat," said McHale, director of Penn State's Children, Youth and Families Consortium (CYFC) and Social Science Research Institute (SSRI), and coordinator of the Network. "We are building new knowledge, including providing evidence on whether programs and policies designed for child abuse prevention, detection or treatment are effective. A key effort in turning knowledge into action is building relationships with the local, state and national groups who share our concerns."

McHale spoke about the Network's goal to build collaborations across the University that will address the complex problems of child maltreatment. A key initiative is through a cluster hire of at least 12 faculty members in departments and colleges across Penn State including, Human Development and Family Studies, Biobehavioral Health, Law, Psychology, Education, Pediatrics, and Sociology and Criminology.

New Network faculty include Jennie Noll, professor of human development and family studies; Chad Shenk, assistant professor of human development; Lori Frasier, director of the Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital Division of Child Abuse Pediatrics; and Idan Shalev, assistant professor of biobehavioral health. Two additional faculty members, Brian Allen and Kent Hymel, will join the College of Medicine later this semester.

"The cluster hire is designed to bring faculty members from different disciplines together to address the problem of child maltreatment in new ways," McHale said.

Margaret Gray, director of administration and policy, along with Noll, the director of research and education, lead the Network. Faculty members and students in four foundational centers and 10 affiliates provide the wide-ranging, interdisciplinary expertise needed in addressing the complicated issues of child abuse and neglect.

"With these experts joining us and working with the experts who are already at Penn State, we will be able to build synergies and develop new knowledge to better protect children and support their health and development," McHale said.

Faculty members involved in the CYFC conduct innovative and high-impact research on the behavior, health and development of children, their families and their communities and are nationally and internationally recognized leaders in this field. In November 2012, based on a proposal by the Presidential Task Force on Child Maltreatment, the University created the Network, which built on the Penn State faculty expertise and CYFC's established mechanisms that support, fund and promote interdisciplinary research.

The Network's third annual conference, "The Role of Parenting and Family Processes in Child Maltreatment and Intervention" is scheduled for May 5-6, 2014, at the Nittany Lion Inn on Penn State's University Park campus.

In September 2013, the Network hosted its second annual Conference on Child Protection and Well-Being. The event attracted district attorneys, children and youth services professionals, law enforcement officials and medical professionals as well as Penn State faculty for presentations and discussions about the development of multidisciplinary investigative teams and child advocacy centers across Pennsylvania.

The inaugural conference on "Sexual Abuse: Traumatic Impact, Prevention and Intervention" was held in October 2012.

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://progress.psu.edu/assets/content/Phase_II_update_Nov_2013.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."

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