Penn State Must Open Records, Change Board, Watchdog Says
Pennsylvania State University should open its records and overhaul its governance to address a “culture of silence” that remains even after a molestation scandal, said Jack Wagner, Pennsylvania’s auditor general.
The university “led the charge” for an exemption from open-records law for it and three other universities receiving tax dollars, Wagner said today in Harrisburg.
“It’s time for the sun to shine in,” he said. “This is a public university that needs to be transparent and more accountable.”
Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach, was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison Oct. 10 for sexually abusing children over a 15-year period. Prosecutors said he was a serial child molester who used a charity he established called Second Mile to recruit victims, then plied them with money and trips to the school’s football games.
While one can’t say Sandusky’s actions could have been “fully prevented,” they “might have been uncovered sooner” if the university had to release records, Wagner said. If officials knew the public could see e-mails and correspondence related to Sandusky, “who knows what that might have prevented?”
On Nov. 7, former university President Graham Spanier was arraigned on charges of conspiring to conceal reports of Sandusky’s abuse. Moody’s Investors Service last month cut Penn State’s credit rating one level to Aa2, the third-highest rating, because of the financial impact of the scandal and said it “could take time” for Penn State to improve its management and culture.
Wagner, whose term as the state’s elected watchdog ends this year, called on the legislature to remove the university president from the board of trustees, making the governor a nonvoting member as opposed to being a voting participant, and reducing the size of the board. He described Penn State’s governance as atypical among Big Ten universities and among the 20 largest universities by enrollment.
“Penn State welcomes input from Auditor General Wagner,” Lisa Powers, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. “The university only just received the report today but will conduct a thorough review.”
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