The following is a statement released by Penn State University in response to the Freeh report.
Today’s comprehensive report is sad and sobering in that it concludes that at the moment of truth, people in positions of authority and responsibility did not put the welfare of children first. The Board of Trustees, as the group that has paramount accountability for overseeing and ensuring the proper functioning and governance of the University, accepts full responsibility for the failures that occurred. The Board, in cooperation with the Administration, will take every action to ensure that events like these never happen again in our university community.
The focus of all of our actions going forward will be on driving a culture of honesty, integrity, responsible leadership and accountability at all levels and within all units of our institution.
Judge Freeh’s report concludes that certain people at the University who were in a position to protect children or confront the predator failed to do so. There can be no ambiguity about that. The defenseless victims and their families are at the forefront of our thoughts and prayers. We are deeply sorry for the failure to protect these vulnerable young boys from the pain and anguish they suffered. At the same time, we are filled with admiration for the bravery shown by the young men and their families who came forward to ensure that justice will be done.
While today’s issuance of the Freeh Report provides some level of clarity for our community, it does not undo the pain that the victims of Jerry Sandusky have experienced, and continue to experience. We will continue to offer counseling to Mr. Sandusky’s victims, listen to them and take affirmative steps to address the harm they have suffered.
Beyond our campuses, the University is undertaking a number of actions to help build greater awareness of the societal issue of child sexual abuse. We are partnering with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) and have also created the Center for the Protection of Children at the Hershey Medical Center. Penn State University intends to be a constructive leader in preventing, reporting and responding to such abuse. This is a problem that plagues our nation, and we have a special duty to increase awareness, prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse.
Judge Freeh’s investigation was intended to identify where failures occurred and what changes should be made for the future. As the Freeh report noted, the University has already taken steps to begin addressing some of the shortcomings.
The Board of Trustees acknowledges that it failed to create an environment of accountability and transparency and did not have optimal reporting procedures or committee structures. Beginning in March 2011 and continuing until the publication of the Grand Jury presentment in November 2011, the Board failed to make proper inquiry of President Spanier and others regarding the Sandusky matter. As a result, the Board was unprepared to deal with the events that occurred in November 2011.
The Board has begun taking a more active oversight role and has implemented specific oversight committees, focused on Risk, Audit, Legal, Compliance, Academic Excellence, Governance and Human Resources. Furthermore, the Board is committed to greater transparency and communications with the entire University community.
Additionally, the University Administration has strengthened policies and programs involving minors, child abuse and mandated reporter training; ensuring a process for prompt reporting of abuse and sexual misconduct; hiring a new, full-time Clery Compliance Coordinator and providing Clery Act training for employees; and establishing a position of, and commencing a national search for, a director of University Compliance. Further information can be found here: http://www.progress.psu.edu.
In the weeks ahead, the University will carefully review and consider each of the report’s recommendations. Tomorrow at its regularly scheduled meeting, the Board of Trustees will consider a series of immediate next steps. President Rodney Erickson has appointed three members of his senior leadership team to coordinate and implement operational changes suggested by the Freeh Report.
As the Freeh Report notes Penn State “is an outstanding institution, nationally renowned for its excellence in academics and research.” Nothing in this report detracts from the many significant accomplishments of our faculty, staff, students and alumni. We also remain proud of the accomplishments of Penn State’s student athletes over many years, and we reaffirm the fundamental premise that academic excellence and athletic achievement are wholly consistent and complementary goals.
With the release of the Freeh Report we are beginning to correct our failures, promote healing and build a stronger tomorrow for Penn State. We are continuing the process of addressing the most painful chapter in the University’s history so that we can heal and move forward.