Thursday, June 07, 2012

Lycurgus Group Statement on Penn State Report: Schools Must Recognize That They Sometimes Face Problems that Internal Staff are not Equipped to Handle The Report on the sexual abuse allegations at Penn State has underscored the fact that schools sometimes face athletics-related problems that internal staff and procedures are not equipped to handle. The Report illustrates the need for schools to be increasingly aware that internal investigations conducted by objectively credible people may be subject to conflict of interest criticism. While such criticism is often unfair -- institutions are unlikely to risk excellent reputations for any single student, faculty member, or staff member – it remains an avoidable fact. The problem at Penn State was not as simple as an institution cynically seeking to protect its own image. Instead, the challenge facing Penn State was the inability of the human beings who run the Institution from recognizing their own conflicts and limitations. One of the natural inclinations of an Institution is to focus more on the subject of the wrongdoing, not the wrongdoing itself. In this case, instead of focusing on the victims, the Penn State Administration focused on protecting the person accused of this misconduct. This focus is an inherent problem of large institutions, and is especially strong at schools with strong athletic cultures like Penn State. Because the athletic leaders are a symbol of a university, Penn State’s leaders may have felt a strong desire to protect their “home,” against external criticism. After Penn State, institutional administrators, like school presidents and athletic directors need to take a more dispassionate approach towards serious allegations of misconduct. One of the results of this...

Joshua Adam Engel

Vice President and General Counsel, Lycurgus Group

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