UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State Board of Trustees today (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.
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.