Monday, July 23, 2012

Statement of the Penn State University Faculty Senate Chair Larry Catá Backer Regarding the NCAA Consent Decree and the Sanctions Declared by the Big 10

(Pix from Faculty Senate 101: An Introduction, Onward State, August 2010)

The Pennsylvania State University Faculty Senate renews its expression of deep sorrow for the pain and suffering of the victims of sexual misconduct, a sorrow we share with the Penn State community. The University Faculty Senate also renews its commitment to doing its part to help rebuild the University’s administrative and governance culture, ensuring that athletics remains a strong and vibrant part of an internationally reputed university that is equally well regarded for its cutting edge scholarship and research, excellence in teaching and service to our communities in Pennsylvania and beyond.

The University Faculty Senate is also specifically committed to helping to right the wrongs that were done and to improve policies to guide members of the university community in doing the right thing. To that end, individually and collectively, the University Faculty Senate rededicates itself to incorporating the highest ethical values in its own operations and in the conduct of each of its members throughout the three components of our mission—research, teaching and service. We also believe in the importance and educational value of athletics as a core part of that mission.

Like others, we believe that the Penn State University must accept responsibility, collectively, institutionally and, with respect to those who failed in their individual duty, personally as well. We understand that our academic peers and others will judge us, perhaps no less harshly than we will judge ourselves. We understand that the institutional failures of our leadership over the past decade and more will have significant consequences for the university community. The University Faculty Senate acknowledges its own failures—it must be more vigorous in affirmatively engaging its role in university shared governance.

Part of accepting responsibility involves accepting the judgment of our peers. On July 23, 2012, we have received the decisions of the NCAA and the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors on the scope of sanctions to be imposed on Penn State. We will respect those decisions and join President Erickson in accepting their consequences for the university and its athletics programs.

We appreciate the emphasis in the NCAA’s decision on the importance of guarding against unchecked and unaccountable power, and welcome the greater willingness of our Board of Trustees and senior administrators to include the University Faculty Senate in discussions and decision-making. This inclusion, which we expect to increase in light of the recommendations of the Freeh Group Report, the import of the NCAA decision, and the renewed commitment to open, transparent shared governance, will contribute to the stronger integration of the highest ethical standards, from the top of our administrative structures to departmental and athletic team officials. The University Faculty Senate has already begun to work with our athletics leaders to forge new and innovative ways to integrate athletics into the academic life of the university, innovations that we expect will respect the highest aspirational objectives of both sport and academics. We believe that Penn State will create the template for academic-athletics integration for the coming decades. That leadership role, we hope, will serve as a model for U.S. universities, whose programs may also require change to avoid suffering from the same structural deficiencies.

Going forward, the University Faculty Senate will continue work with the senior administrators and members of the Board of Trustees in implementing the decisions of the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors and the NCAA. We will be active participants in the construction of a more robust and integrative structure to incorporate athletics more intimately into the life of the university. This includes implementation of the Athletics Integrity Agreement, the Compliance Council it envisions, and the implementation of related recommendations of the Freeh Group Report.

This is a very sad moment in the history of this great institution. But this is an institution that can learn from its mistakes and emerge all the stronger for the experience. We cannot undo past harm, we can just do our best to do right by those who have been hurt; we can, however, improve ourselves to better avoid future harm. Along with all of the members of the Penn State community—faculty, students, alumni, administrators, board members and supporters—we will do our part to ensure a better future for Penn State.

Larry Catá Backer
2012-2013 Chair University Faculty Senate
W. Richard and Mary Eshelman Faculty Scholar & Professor of Law,
Professor of International Affairs

1 comment:

  1. I think that the Faculty Senate needs to pass a resolution urging the Trustees to mandate: 1) that the $60 million dollar fine be paid for solely with the resources of the Athletic Program; and 2) that the accounting of payment be shared with the appropriate body of the Faculty Senate.