UNIVERSITY PARK – With the recommendations from the Freeh Report substantially completed, Penn State administrators are concentrating on Phase II of the commitment to fulfilling the requirements of the Athletics Integrity Agreement signed a year ago as part of the consent decree with the NCAA and the Big Ten.
“We intend to continue the positive momentum of the past 12 months,” Frank T. Guadagnino, senior partner with Reed Smith LLP, of Pittsburgh, told a joint meeting of the Board of Trustees Committee on Audit and Risk and the Committee on Legal and Compliance yesterday.
That includes the creation of a process for ensuring appropriate follow up and implementation of “ongoing and continuous” initiatives occurring as envisioned; creating a structure to monitor change initiatives, including those that are initiated internally; and taking advantage of synergies and “lessons learned,” including working to avoid “change fatigue,” setting appropriate priorities and communicating proactively with the University community.
Guadagnino said the University would maintain the existing project management structure, which consists of an administration response team, advisory council and a joint trustee/advisory council group. “We also will continue processes we have in place, including regular meetings of those groups, as well as meetings with appropriate University leaders to discuss change initiatives, and publication of a status report on a regular basis,” Guadagnino said.
Guadagnino also outlined a comprehensive plan for a wide range of functional areas covered by Freeh recommendations, including: ethics, culture and values; governance; legal, risk, compliance and audit; safety and security; youth programs; 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.
In his report to the trustees, Guadagnino also outlined the University’s significant accomplishments to date. “Several important new positions have been created and filled, including those of Clery compliance officer, chief ethics and compliance officer, youth programs coordinator and athletics integrity officer,” Guadagnino said.
The past year also has seen sweeping changes to the structure and operations of the Board of Trustees; new or improved policies and procedures in a number of important areas; restructuring of Human Resources function; coordination of youth programs; increased focus on institutional risk; and improved and increased training for employees in the areas of Clery compliance and reporting of child abuse.
More than 13,300 employees went through the Building a Safer Penn State: Reporting Child Abuse face-to-face training in 2012; in 2013, 4,930 people trained face-to-face and another 11,562 trained via a new online training module. “We had 2,022 people receive Clery ‘CSA’ (campus security authority) training in 2013, and have delivered ‘Covered Persons’ training for more than 1,100 student-athletes, coaches, ICA staff and trustees,” Guadagnino said.
Guadagnino’s report comes on the heels of a positive report by Sen. George Mitchell, the independent, third-party athletics integrity monitor for Penn State, on the University’s progress on its annual obligations under the Athletics Integrity Agreement (AIA). Under the AIA, the University was obligated to take all reasonable steps to implement the recommendations made in the Freeh Report by Dec. 31.
Mitchell’s report stated: “Throughout the first year of the Consent Decree, Penn State has demonstrated its commitment to fulfilling the requirements of the AIA and to implementing the recommendations made in the Freeh Report. … As of this first anniversary of my appointment as Monitor, Penn State has substantially completed the initial implementation of all of the Freeh Report recommendations and of its annual obligations under the AIA. … While much has been accomplished, important work remains to be done. Penn State must maintain its focus on these ongoing initiatives while also fostering an environment in which its many undertakings will take root and thrive. By all indications this far, the University has positioned itself well to meet this challenge.”
Mitchell’s report concludes, “While parties may continue to argue about the history that led to the Freeh Report and the AIA, a consensus has developed that the principles at the heart of these reforms are best practices for the governance of any large university. Penn State’s Phase II plan of action assures the Monitor that the University has embraced the Freeh Report’s recommendations as a roadmap supporting long-term enhancement. It demonstrates that, even after the Dec. 31 deadline for completion has long since passed, Penn State plans to continue to be guided by the recommendations in its mission to establish effective ethics, compliance and governance programs, support the physical safety of all individuals on its campuses, and promote athletics integrity.”
The Freeh Report was produced by independent law firm Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan, which was hired in November of 2011 and investigated the University’s response to the allegations against former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.