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Faculty Senate to Discuss Contacting NCAA, Big Ten Regarding Sanctions

by on August 23, 2012 1:58 PM

The University Faculty Senate will consider reaching out to the NCAA and the Big Ten in an attempt to ask for reconsideration the sanctions dealt to Penn State at its meeting on Tuesday.

A six-page document on the Faculty Senate's website outlines the questions to be considered and discussion at the meeting, which includes communication with the NCAA and the Big Ten to address alleged lapses within the football program and other Penn State programs and alleged lapses in oversight or institutional control at Penn State.

The Faculty Senate is not appealing the sanctions and even begins by stating its support for Penn State President Erickson. However, the Senate believes the sanctions are punishing the wrong individuals.

" ... We believe that neither the NCAA process nor the specific NCAA sanctions concerning loss of football scholarships, official records of games won and lost (vacating of all football wins), and bans for four years on postseason football play fit fairly within the precedents of NCAA sanctions in the past for other football programs and other sports programs.

"These sanctions do injustices to the large number of student athletes who were recruited fairly to the PSU football program, who achieved distinction on the playing fields and in classrooms, and who behaved with honor and responsibility," the Senate states.

Chairman Larry Backer, a professor in the Dickinson School School of Law said the document was presented to the Senate by a faculty senator from the College of the Liberal Arts. Though one person brought it to the Senate at large's attention, Backer said it reflects the sentiment that has been building as events have continued to unfold at the university. 

"There's a sense of unease with respect to the turn of some events but also the larger questions about the ease of which the senate's role can be overlooked, especially at critical times," Backer said. 

For example, the Senate was not consulted when Penn State President Rodney Erickson decided to sign the binding consent decree that dealt Penn State its sanctions, Backer said.

"There are times when perhaps the administration or board (of Trustees) is consulting ... sometimes they overlook consultation with the institutional voice of the faculty.

"No doubt that will improve," Backer said. 

According to the document, the Faculty Senate wants the NCAA to reconsider Penn State's sanctions because the NCAA has acknowledged Penn State has committed "zero violations in regards to recruiting, payments or compensations of or compensations of any inappropriate kind to athletes or their families, eligibility, gambling, academic cheating, fund raising and related similar matters.

"Furthermore, the NCAA identifies no games in which an ineligible football player participated for the years 1998 to 2011 or for any other time period. The NCAA cites the Freeh report as the only background investigation it reviewed, and in that report there are no identified football program lapses in terms of any of the student-athlete funding and eligibility and conduct matters that have been at the heart of NCAA sanctioning of football, basketball, track, tennis, volleyball and other athletic programs at other institutions.

"Further, the NCAA acknowledges that PSU has no major violations of any kind in the past."

A section in the document is devoted to addressing the victims of Jerry Sandusky's child abuse. The Senate, as other leaders at Penn State have, support the victims and state their intent to do whatever necessary to help the victims move forward.

"Our hearts go out to the victims of child abuse, and we pledge again to work in myriad ways to support appropriate actions and research to prevent child abuse, to help victims when it does occur, and to facilitate prompt and thorough reporting of any suspected instances.

"The NCAA based its sanction of $60 million, to go into a fund at PSU supporting work in prevention of child abuse, on the findings of the Freeh report, and it is apparent that these particular sanctions are on PSU as a whole for its particular failures of institutional control as regards child abuse and child abuse reporting."

While no formal vote can be made once discussions have ended at Tuesday's meeting, Backer said a senator can make a motion to move to vote at the next meeting. 

Backer said the most important thing the Senate can do now is move forward.

"Right now what moving forward means is rolling up our sleeves and getting to the task of resoponding to the significant task of (recommendations), what's in the Freeh report.

"Moving forward means doing our jobs in the Senate, getting to the business, making the necessary changes," Backer said.

Penn State's Faculty Senate meets at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in 112 Kern Graduate Building. The full agenda is available on the university Faculty Senate's website.

Laura Nichols is a news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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