Frazier provides update on independent investigation
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Board of Trustees member Kenneth Frazier, chair of the Special Investigations Task Force, provided an update Friday (Jan. 20) on the work of the independent team looking into issues related to the allegations against Jerry Sandusky.
Below is his report to the board. In addition, the board agreed that the University would focus its efforts on the five areas spelled out below.
Remarks by Kenneth Frazier
Board of Trustees Meeting, Jan. 20, 2012
The shocking details contained in the Grand Jury report that came to light in November 2011 rightfully elicited intense emotions among the Penn State community, the nation and the world, including rage, disbelief and overwhelming sadness. The allegations of unspeakable crimes against helpless children are extraordinarily serious, and have affected us profoundly.
It will take years to fully come to terms with this tragedy. But one element of doing so is to understand how the alleged acts could have happened at Penn State, where the breakdowns occurred, who knew what when, and what changes we can make to prevent such anguish in the future.
To assist in finding answers to such questions, the Special Investigations Task Force of the Board of Trustees announced on Nov. 21, 2011, that it had retained Judge Louis Freeh and his firm to conduct an independent, external investigation. Judge Freeh, a former FBI director and federal judge, has unimpeachable credentials and unparalleled experience in law and criminal justice.
His mandate is clear. He and his team have been tasked to investigate this matter fully, fairly and completely. They have been directed to show no favoritism toward any party, including the administration and every member of the Board of Trustees itself. The Task Force has assured Judge Freeh total independence so that this mandate can be fulfilled. Indeed, that assurance was the main condition of Judge Freeh’s engagement.
The investigation is well under way. Judge Freeh has assembled an impressive team of former law enforcement officials and lawyers, including former prosecutors, with many decades of experience conducting sensitive investigations. They have established an office here on campus, and are fully engaged in reviewing documents, conducting interviews, and pursuing leads.
This investigation is being conducted in parallel with, but independent of, several other active investigations by agencies and governmental authorities, and will not interfere with any such other investigations.
In addition to working to uncover what occurred in the past, Judge Freeh and his team are thoroughly studying, reviewing and testing all of the University’s policies, procedures, compliance and internal controls relating to identifying and reporting of such sex crimes or misconduct. This examination includes, among other things, any failures or gaps in the University’s control environment, compliance programs and culture which may have enabled the alleged misconduct to occur, go undetected, and not be reported and addressed promptly and properly.
In this regard, Judge Freeh just last evening made some initial recommendations for improving organizational structures and protocols that the Board is reviewing. We requested these interim recommendations because the Board did not want to wait for the work to be completed to learn about changes that we could consider now. The Board is in full agreement with and committed to implementing the interim recommendations, which fall into five main categories:
Strengthening Policies for Programs Involving Minors, including:
- Providing more clear and specific guidance to staff and others who interact with children, including enhanced background checks and “abuse awareness” training.
Prompt Reporting of Incidents of Abuse and Sexual Misconduct, including:
- Enhancing the visibility of the Office of Internal Audit’s Ethics Hotline and providing training on the importance of reporting misconduct and the University’s no-retaliation policy.
Compliance with the Clery Act’s Training and Reporting Requirements, including:
- Updating and providing training to University personnel with Clery Act compliance responsibilities. Utilizing outside experts on Clery Act obligations to provide this training, beginning with the Athletic Department and other “Campus Security Authorities.”
Administrative Reforms, including:
- Defining the role of and hiring/appointing a Chief Compliance and Ethics Officer who will have a direct reporting relationship to a Committee of the Board of Trustees for a more coordinated and complete response to all compliance matters. Among other duties, the Compliance Officer will be responsible for Department of Education compliance, including the Clery Act.
Athletic Department – Security Arrangements, including:
- Developing a procedure to ensure that the University immediately retrieves keys, access cards and all other University property from individuals who are not formally associated with the University, or who are no longer associated with the University.
Further, during discussions with Judge Freeh, it became clear that there are some longer term changes that we as a Board must make, sooner rather than later. One being creation of a fulsome Compliance Program, which includes Board oversight through a Compliance Committee. That committee would have oversight responsibility or all regulatory obligations, including the Clery Act, and the Chief Compliance and Ethics Officer would have a direct reporting line to the committee. The Board is fully committed to undertaking this responsibility.
At the conclusion of Judge Freeh’s work, the full findings and recommendations will be made public. Those findings will address:
- Failures that occurred in the reporting process;
- The cause for those failures;
- Who had knowledge of the allegations of sexual abuse; and
- How those allegations were handled by the Trustees, Penn State administrators, coaches and other staff.
We understand that answers cannot come quickly enough for all concerned, and I assure you that Judge Freeh and his team are moving as expeditiously as possible. But we will not sacrifice thoroughness and completeness for expediency. We have therefore imposed no artificial timetables onto this vital work.
While as I have stated it would be desirable to have this investigation completed by the end of the current academic year, I expect it will take longer than that, perhaps until the beginning of the next academic year. Timing will be dictated by how long it takes to complete a thorough investigation.
I wish there were a faster path to satisfactory answers for everyone. I am confident, however, that the investigation and the legal processes will provide many factual answers. But I also believe there is a vast difference between answering questions and reaching emotional closure from such a heart-wrenching tragedy. That will undoubtedly take much longer. For now, let me just say on behalf of the Board of Trustees of Penn State University that the victims are at the forefront of our thoughts each day, and that we sincerely hope that our work can contribute to breaking the silence surrounding sexual violence that appears to have allowed evil to prevail in far too many instances in our society.