Letter to the Editor : Penn State scandal prompts questions about SU’s past
Recent events at Pennsylvania State University serve both as sources of instruction and as an invitation for those of us who care about Syracuse University to consider ‘the state of play’ here; to ask ourselves and each other the most basic questions about what matters most in a large and complex institution of higher learning.
Let me begin with two assertions and then conclude with one factual account.
First, what matters most at a college or university is its absolute and unwavering commitment to truth and integrity. With that, all things are possible. Without that, nothing else matters.
Second, I do not believe SU’s reputation could withstand an independent outside investigation of some of the decisions and actions of its most senior administrators without suffering the kind of damage Penn State is now experiencing.
Third, several years ago, a female first-year student reported to Judicial Affairs and the Department of Public Safety that she had been sexually assaulted by several varsity basketball players. Investigation and sworn statements followed with a hearing to follow until both Judicial Affairs and Public Safety were ordered off the case and to have no further contact with the student, who was urged to get a lawyer. This was unheard of and violated the student’s rights. In place of a hearing, a fabricated ‘informal resolution,’ to which she was not a party, was worked out among lawyers for the men, the university and the lawyer ostensibly representing the woman. For all practical purposes, she was left on her own by the university. As the student’s dean, I became involved when she consulted me about related academic matters and informed me of how she had been treated. When she told me she wanted a hearing, I offered to do my best to help her secure one, and a hearing was eventually granted. Explanations were advanced attempting to justify the denial of her rights, but they lacked both merit and persuasiveness.
Now, think Penn State.
Former associate dean, College of Arts and Sciences
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