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Trustees Approve Code of Conduct, Listen to Criticism

by on November 16, 2012 5:17 PM

Penn State trustees Joel Myers and Anthony Lubrano wanted to make sure it was perfectly clear that the Board of Trustees' approving an official Code of Conduct for Athletics was not a vote of approval for the consent agreement Penn State President Rodney Erickson signed with the NCAA in July.

At the regular November meeting on Friday afternoon in the Penn Stater Conference Center and Hotel, the board approved a Code of Conduct for Athletics, per requirement by the Athletic Integrity Agreement the university entered into with the NCAA and the Big Ten as a stipulation of the sanctions dealt to Penn State in the wake of Jerry Sandusky's conviction. 

According to Penn State, the code of conduct applies to all coaches, managers and student-athletes of NCAA-sanctioned Division I intercollegiate athletics teams, university employees directly involved with intercollegiate athletics teams, members of the Board of Trustees, the university president and all members of the athletic director's executive committee.

Board Chairwoman Karen Peetz said in a press conference after the general meeting that there was the idea of a code of conduct that would apply to the entire student body "bubbling up" from the students themselves, though nothing is currently in the works. 

According to the code, all applicable individuals must comply with university policies and procedures, the Intercollegiate Athletics Policy Manual, applicable NCAA constitution and bylaws and Big Ten Handbook and all applicable laws, rules and regulations.

All individuals covered by the code must report through designated methods suspected violations of policies and rules, Penn State said. The code of conduct also requires student-athletes to adhere to the University’s Student Code of Conduct and team rules established by the head coach.

The code states that coaches and managers will not have any hiring or supervisory role with regard to academic support staff, and they may not apply pressure to faculty or any member of the academic support staff on behalf of a student-athlete. They also may not play a role in hiring or supervising, or apply pressure to, compliance staff.

While coaches may recommend qualified student-athletes for admission, they may not attempt to pressure admissions staff to admit an applicant, according to Penn State. 

The board unanimously voted to approve the code of conduct with the stipulation that it does not also serve as a formal acceptance of the binding NCAA consent agreement. 

Trustees were updated on enrollment statistics at Penn State, which were recently announced as having dropped, hovering around numbers similar to enrollment in 2009. Peetz said it "reflected a trend" among Big Ten schools – citing one that saw a drop of as much as 30 percent this past year – but said she couldn't rule out all factors, including the events that have unraveled over the past year. 

"You have to think, that some part of that – I don't know what percentage, I don't know what part of it specifically does – it seems to be a trend that we're just part of, but I'd have to think that there's some part of it that has to do with [the Sandusky scandal].

The Nittany Lion Shrine is getting something of a makeover, too. Plans were unveiled on Friday that reflect an effort to make the lion more accesible to handicapped patrons and ensure it will be lit up at all times. 

The public comment hour moved more quickly a second time around after time limits were not honored at the September meeting. Commenters, however, were severe in their criticism of Peetz, the board and its processes. They called for the resignations of all board members, with the exception of the three members elected in the spring. 

Dr. Phil Shultes, a 1990 graduate from the Penn State College of Medicine said Penn State was "dead" to him and his wife, who he said raised their children on the song of the Nittany Lion. 

Shultes said he has been going around to high schools, speaking to guidance counselors and working to deter high school students from attending Penn State. 

Peetz said she was "very disappointed" to hear a comment like that from an alumni.

Before the meeting adjourned, Myers spoke up to address his support for the character and sportsmanship exhibited by Bill O'Brien and the Penn State football team this past season, given all that they were up against – sanctions, lost scholarships and teammates who transferred. 

Myers said Penn State has risen above the adversity it has faced over the past year. His mantra was a sharp turn from the individuals who spoke during the public comment hour. 

"Certainly they know Penn State has set the highest standards ... I challenge any university to show me a cleaner program and higher ideals than can be found at Penn State. We know that many have heard our message of integrity and leadership, but clearly many have not. How can we do better ... the Penn State community has always embraced and worked extremely hard to embrace righteousness, fairness and academic integrity and to make sure our athletes maintain high standards.

"Shouldn't we expect fairness in return," Myers said. 

"I believe this football team will be remembered for 100 years, let's make it so. They did not give up in the face of adversity. They have showed immense class against extraordinary odds. The victories they fought hard for in 2008, '09, '10, '11, were stripped away from them through no fault of their own.

"Then comes game day. They play their hearts out with the expectation that at least the rules of the game will be the same for both teams.

Shouldn't the NCAA and the Big Ten speak for these players against any injustice," Myers said. 

The meeting ended around 4:30 p.m. with some members expressing their support for finding a way to honor the football team at the conclusion of the season, though no formal plans were set in motion.


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