Pitt State re-evaluates policies
Jay Benedict | Managing Editor
Earlier this month a child abuse scandal rocked Penn State University and garnered the nation’s attention leading other universities, including Pittsburg State, to turn their eyes toward their own policies concerning crimes on their campuses.
“When the Penn State scandal broke, President (Steve) Scott met with the President’s Council to determine what, if any, action PSU would take in response,” said Jamie Brooksher, PSU general council.
A federal grand jury indictment and the firing of longtime football coach Joe Paterno has left Penn State seeking answers as to why no one on the staff reported the alleged misconduct of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. According to the jury report, Sandusky’s actions were witnessed by several people who informed higher-ranking officials, but no investigation was conducted by the campus police. The inaction of Penn State officials and Paterno allegedly allowed Sandusky to claim more than 20 victims.
“He (Scott) asked me, to conduct a thorough review of PSU’s policies and identify any potential deficiencies,” Brooksher said.
Brooksher is in the process of the review currently, and says she will have the summary done by the end of the current semester. The summary will highlight PSU’s policies relating to reporting crimes and other wrongdoing on campus. Brooksher says she will then present the review to a committee comprised of provost Lynette Olson, associate vice president for campus life Steve Erwin, and athletic director Jim Johnson. The group will comb the review to identify weaknesses and search for remedies to any that are found.
Brooksher says the current policy regarding the misconduct of any university employee is to handle it on a case-by-case basis. There are three classes of employees on campus: faculty, classified, and unclassified. Each group has a different body that oversees them and each has different codes. Some employees, like medical professionals and attorneys, are governed by professional codes of conduct as well.
“PSU is fortunate to have a professional police force located on campus that we can contact whenever we have a report of a crime,” Brooksher said. “They are sworn law enforcement officers with full investigative and arrest powers.”
PSU Chief of Police Mike McCracken says that internal investigations raised by the university are rare and there have only been about three in the past two years. He says that an investigation can arise from a complaint from anyone. If it’s not from administrators, they are notified if the investigation turns up anything.
“Mostly, we investigate students because someone is concerned they’re involved in illegal activity,” McCracken said. “I can’t recall us investigating any faculty or staff.”
McCracken says if any criminal charges arise, the case is turned over the county attorney. If the administration still wants a separate report then a concurrent investigation may take place. However, evidence that can be used in the criminal case is confidential. The university’s internal investigation is conducted differently.
“In regards to the Penn State and Syracuse cases, we are obligated by the Jeanne Cleary Act to investigate anything it covers,” McCracken said.
The law requires any university authority to report any crimes committed on or around campus. It also requires annual crime reports, detailed crime statistics, and timely warning of crimes on campus. Pitt State currently is in compliance with all aspects of the law.