Sunday, July 22, 2012

Death Penalty

Eli, as some have noted, is an ancient professor, an academic if you will.  He has followed the collapse of governance at Penn State with the interest of a bunny watching a disaster unveiled, and recently saw much back and forth about the NCAA (the folks who profit from and do the pompous on intercollegiate athletics in the US) imposing the death penalty on football at PSU.

Folks, that ain't the death penalty Penn State has to worry about.  Accreditation at US institutions of higher learning runs through cooperative associations of colleges and universities, who certify to the US Department of Education.  That ain't whiffle ball because all federal funding, student loans, research grants and more depend on that certification.

In Penn State's case the accrediting agency is the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and yes, they have taken note of the unfolding disaster surrounding Jerry Sandusky's being allowed free  run by the athletic department at PSU, requesting an informational report last November,

This letter is written in response to recent coverage in the media concerning the criminal allegations brought forward by the Pennsylvania Attorney General and the related investigations launched by the United States Department of Education.

The policies of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education state, “If an institution conducts its affairs in ways which generate serious public concern, the Commission reserves the right to request further information from the institution.” In addition, federal regulations require that the Commission monitor and reevaluate accredited institutions and programs, and conduct special evaluations or visits as deemed necessary.

In our opinion, the recent reports raise questions about the ethical conduct of University officials and constitute cause for concern as to whether the University remains in compliance with the Requirements of Affiliation of the Commission on Higher Education and with Standard 6, Integrity. This concern requires us to request written information.

Therefore, on behalf of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, The Pennsylvania State University is asked to submit an information report by no later than January 2, 2012 addressing the recent developments and/or plans to ensure the University’s ongoing compliance with the Commission’s Requirements of Affiliation and with Standard 6, Integrity.

In addition, the Commission requests to be kept informed of the status and results of the on-going criminal investigation, the investigation conducted by the United States Department of Education, and/or any subsequent investigations conducted by the NCAA or other governing bodies related to these matters. 
Eli notes in particular that there is an ongoing investigation by the US Department of Education.

Penn State first responded on December 21, 2011.  The response was noncommittally accepted by Middle States at their March meeting.  There are some additional comments in an April Fools Day update principally on other issues which Middle States had previously asked for information on learning goals and assessment.

The investigatory report by Lloyd Freeh commissioned by the Penn State Board of Trustees was quite clear
The most saddening finding by the Special Investigative Counsel is the total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders at Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims. As the Grand Jury similarly noted in its presentment,1 there was no “attempt to investigate, to identify Victim 2, or to protect that child or any others from similar conduct except as related to preventing its re‐occurrence on University property.”
This extended to the highest levels of the University, the Board of Trustees, the President, the Head Football Coach (according to most who outranked everyone) the Athletic Director and the Vice President for Business and Finance.  In its December 21 response to Middle States, well, nothing much about what the the athletic department and specifically the football program has done, (which appears to be nothing much) but they were assiduous in making sure that none of the studs jumped ship
Conference calls with parents of current football players were held, as well as with incoming student-athletes to answer questions and reassure them of Penn State’s commitment. Meetings have been held with all head coaches to ensure that teams and student-athletes are maintaining open communication lines for individuals who may need support or assistance. These efforts have been supplemented by e-mails to student-athletes and parents that include awareness of specific resources available.
including this little tidbit
The Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics (COIA) is an example of an extension of shared governance that constitutes an alliance of 58 (out of 115) NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Division schools. Originating in 2002 with Penn State Professor (now Professor Emeritus) of Communications John Nichols as a founding member and current chair, the Coalition provides a national faculty voice on intercollegiate sports issues, including areas of concern such as academic integrity and quality, and student-athlete welfare ( Chair Nichols, in light of recent events and given his affiliation with Penn State, requested that the Coalition’s 16-member Steering Committee “review the appropriateness of his continued leadership and of COIA’s close association with Penn State.” In response to that request, the Coalition’s Steering Committee communicated to President Erickson on November 21, 2011, reaffirming support noting that they were “mindful of Penn State’s long history of accomplishments in athletics governance, as well as the way in which the integrity of all our schools is continually challenged by the role of contemporary college sports,” and further noted that the Steering Committee “has strongly and unanimously reaffirmed COIA’s links to Penn State, and its confidence in the leadership of Professor Nichols.” In closing, that statement of reaffirmation stated that “Penn State is one of America’s great public universities, and as advocates for the excellence of U.S. higher education, all of us in COIA are anxious that Penn State emerges from this crisis and continues its strong role as partner in our communal academic mission.”
The only mention of Paterno is rather footnotey
The Center for the Study of Leadership and Ethics was established in 1996 and is currently housed in the College of Education. It is devoted to the support, promotion and dissemination of theory and research on values and leadership. The College of the Liberal Arts has a listing of ethics courses ( and offers an interdisciplinary minor in ethics housed in the Philosophy Department.
There is a lot in the Penn State reports about how they are strengthening ethics training everywhere (except pretty much nothing specific about in intercollegiate athletics), donations to various charities for abused kids, new reporting requirements and hotlines, etc.  but no one wants to really bell the cat.

There is serious trouble in Happy Valley, but more importantly this offers the accrediting agencies the opportunity to get control of athletics if they dare (aka professorial wet dreams).


Steve Bloom said...

Erratum as slogan: Free(h) Louis!

Anonymous said...

Snow bunny:

This is a law enforcement issue. If Pa. can send a monsignor up for 3-6 years, they can charge these conspirators (that are still alive) and send them to prison too.

Then maybe the next bunch that is tempted to hide child sexual assaults will thick twice. And a molester won't be free to abuse more kids.