As a follow-up to my piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education, I was recently a guest on the Navigating Change podcast, where I talked more lessons for college and university leaders from the Sandusky scandal at Penn State University and the Nassar scandal at Michigan State University.
I spent much time the last couple of weeks following the sentencing hearing of former Michigan State University professor and doctor Larry Nassar. I was watching from the perspective of having been associated with now a second university embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal, having worked at Michigan State before coming to USF, and before that, at Penn State University when the Sandusky scandal broke there. This week I wrote an op-ed in The Chronicle of Higher Education about my experience at these two institutions, and what it tells us about the responsibility of university leaders.
Last summer, I wrote a post about the Freeh Report, the investigative report commissioned by the Board of Trustees of Penn State University in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The report painted a damning portrait of the leadership of the university and the steps those leaders took to conceal the child abuse perpetrated by Sandusky. I wrote an op-ed for the Chronicle of Higher Education when the report was released, outlining my disappointment with what had transpired.
This past week, word came out of Harrisburg of the indictment of former Penn State President Graham Spanier, on eight charges, including five felonies. The felony charges include obstruction of justice, perjury, and conspiracy, all related to Spanier’s part in the active covering up of Sandusky’s abuse of children that was allegedly reported to Spanier in 1998 and 2001.
Today, former FBI Director Louis Freeh released his investigative report into the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State. In some ways, my time there seems like it is a long way in my past, but in others it’s still very fresh in my memory. The unfolding of the scandal less than two months before I left, and over the subsequent eight months, has kept me connected to my former employer in ways that I never would have anticipated when I accepted the job here at Michigan State.
Today I published a commentary piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education about the release of the Freeh report and its findings. I won’t repeat what I said there; you can read it for yourself. Suffice it to say that reading the report, and then writing about what it means for Penn State, has saddened me a great deal. But I believe that the story needs to be told to ensure that these kinds of heinous crimes, and inaction on the part of the leaders of the university, are not repeated at Penn State or elsewhere. My thoughts are with the victims of the crimes and their families, as well as with all my friends and colleagues back at Penn State who will be dealing with the fallout of the scandal for some time into the future.