Graham Spanier

Prosecutors recently indicted Penn State’s ex-President Graham Spanier for allegedly covering up the Sandusky child abuse scandal. University presidents, take note: Inadequate oversight of internal procedures can now land you in jail. Something needs to be done about UT’s official response to the rape and sexual assault of its students, because the current policy favors institutional interests over those of students at every turn. The University has a moral responsibility to give survivors access to records relating to their complaints, confirmation of appropriate crime reporting, full information about their options and legal assistance. That responsibility has not been fulfilled.

It starts when a survivor attempts to report a rape. Every common survivor contact point at UT — including the Office of the Dean of Students, UTPD and Legal Services for Students — fails to inform survivors of their full range of options for responding to rape. These options are criminal, University and civil complaints. UT’s policy does not include the civil complaint as an option.

Civil complaints are almost always survivors’ best reporting option. The standard of proof in criminal cases is “beyond a reasonable doubt” — around 99 percent — compared to “a preponderance of evidence” in a civil case — around 51 percent. Civil complaints have a higher success rate because their standard of proof is about half as high as that of criminal complaints. According to UT, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) makes internal UT investigations nontransparent and thus incomparable. Survivors are only privy to the outcome, not the factors in making the decision.

These relative success rates matter. The outcome of a rape report can be evidence to a survivor of whether the world believes him or her. Thus, scholars Patricia Martin and Marlene Powell call the experience of reporting sexual assault to police a “dual assault” for survivors. Unsuccessful criminal complaints are the norm, and they can cause survivors to feel even less safe. It stands to reason that if police do not believe you, they are not going to protect you.

The U.S. arrest rate for rape is only 24 percent out of all reported incidents, and the probability that a criminal rape report leads to conviction and prison sentencing for the perpetrator is in the single digits. Criminal complaints are vastly more likely to land survivors, not rapists, in police interrogation rooms. Furthermore, in criminal cases survivors risk imprisonment for refusing to testify before their attackers in court. This criminalizes a normal response to violent injury — fear

Civil complaints carry no such risk. And unlike criminal or University complaints, they let survivors suggest appropriate remedies. Dean Soncia Reagins-Lilly states that as a practice in some cases, the University or the Office of the Dean of Students asks students involved in disputes or conflicts including reported rape incidents what outcome they feel would be an appropriate resolution to the situation. The University does not publish criteria or other data on when and how often this occurs. Conversely, incarceration of the rapist is the optimal outcome of a criminal rape complaint. Incarceration means placing the rapist in a cage where he himself will have a double-digit probability of being sexually assaulted. Some survivors might prefer other remedies.

Survivors who are informed of the risks and benefits of all their reporting options would likely favor civil complaints over criminal or University ones, but at UT, the policy is to not even give them the option.

It gets worse. After the complaint has been made, the victims are prevented from knowing whether their case is being adequately investigated. The Office of the Dean of Students, citing FERPA, requires releases from both parties — the survivor and the alleged perpetrator — in order to release records relating to investigations of complaints of a sexual nature, except when those complaints meet definition of sexual assault. This means some survivors can’t access their complaint records to determine why UT won’t let them access their records.

Ironically, UT’s self-protecting responses to rape may endanger the institution’s longer-term interests and those of its most powerful administrators. If survivors were to realize that their experiences are not unique, but representative of larger patterns of institutional misconduct in response to rape, their stories might generate serious external pressures for reform. For example, the Department of Education might review the nontransparent records classifications that curtail survivors’ access to complaint records. Press from the results of such a review might harm UT’s reputation and fundraising capacity. Correspondence detailing high-level knowledge of some erroneous classifications and inadequate procedures might even cause individual administrators to incur criminal or civil liability.

Shame often keeps survivors silent. But the shame belongs to UT for its inadequate response to rape. UT’s moral imperative to assist injured students should be even more obvious when students are injured by other members of the same community of trust, but here the University has dropped the ball.

Sack is a member of the Liberal Arts Honors Program class of 2005. She researches administrative decision-making and advocates for students at the University of Virginia.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The “conspiracy of silence” that protected Jerry Sandusky extended all the way to the top at Penn State, prosecutors said Thursday as they charged former university President Graham Spanier with hushing up child sexual abuse allegations against the former assistant football coach.
   
Prosecutors also added counts against two of Spanier’s former underlings, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, who were already charged with lying to a grand jury.
   
“This was not a mistake by these men. This was not an oversight. It was not misjudgment on their part,” said state Attorney General Linda Kelly. “This was a conspiracy of silence by top officials to actively conceal the truth.”

Spanier’s lawyers issued a statement that asserted his innocence and described the new charges as an attempt by Gov. Tom Corbett to divert attention from the three-year investigation that began under his watch as attorney general.
   
“These charges are the work of a vindictive and politically motivated governor working through an unelected attorney general ... whom he appointed to do his bidding,” the four defense lawyers wrote.
   
Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said the defense statement “sounds like the ranting of a desperate man who just got indicted.”
   
Curley’s lawyer Caroline Roberto said he was innocent of all charges, as he has asserted in the past. She said the new documents were being reviewed and would have a more comprehensive comment later. Schultz also has maintained his innocence; his lawyer did not return a message seeking comment.
   
At a Capitol news conference, Kelly said all three men “knowingly testified falsely and failed to provide important information and evidence.”
   
Spanier was charged with perjury, obstruction, endangering the welfare of children, failure to properly report suspected abuse and conspiracy. Curley and Schultz face new charges of endangering the welfare of children, obstruction and conspiracy.
  
The charges were filed with a suburban Harrisburg district judge, whose office said Curley and Schultz were expected to be arraigned Friday afternoon and Spanier tentatively scheduled to appear Wednesday. They came nearly a year to the day that Sandusky was arrested.

Sandusky, who spent decades on the Penn State staff and was defensive coordinator during two national championship seasons, was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years. He has maintained he is innocent and was transferred to a maximum security prison on Wednesday, where he is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence.

Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, leaves campus while reporters ask him about the accusations surrounding Penn State.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Support for keeping Joe Paterno in his job coaching Penn State football is eroding among the board of trustees, threatening to end the 84-year-old coach’s career amid a child sex abuse scandal involving a former assistant and one-time heir apparent.

A person familiar with the trustees’ discussions and who used the term “eroding” said it was unclear what the consequences for Paterno will be and that a decision could be rendered before the board meets on Friday.

Penn State President Graham Spanier also has lost support among the Board of Trustees, the person said but, again, how much was unclear.

Paterno’s son, Scott, said his father hasn’t spoken with Penn State officials or trustees about stepping down. Addressing reporters outside his father’s house, he said Joe Paterno plans to not only coach in Saturday’s game against Nebraska but for the long haul.

“No one has asked Joe to resign,” Scott Paterno told The Associated Press in a text message.

Penn State administrators canceled Paterno’s weekly news conference during which he was expected to field questions about the sex abuse scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. The former defensive coordinator of Paterno’s two national championship teams in the 1980s was arrested Saturday on charges of sexually abusing eight boys over 15 years. His lawyer said Sandusky is innocent.

Scott Paterno said the decision to cancel was made by Spanier’s office and that his father was disappointed.

“I know you guys have a lot of questions. I was hoping I could answer them today. We’ll try to do it as soon as we can,” Joe Paterno said to a group of reporters as he got into his car. About a dozen students stood nearby, chanting, “We love you, Joe.”

A second person familiar with the board’s discussions, said it was focused on the horrific aspects of the charges against Sandusky; two Penn State officials have also been charged in the scandal, accused of failing to notify authorities when told Sandusky had assaulted a boy in a shower used by the football team.

Trustee David Joyner said he was unaware if any decision had been made on Paterno’s future.

Authorities said that Paterno, who testified in the grand jury proceedings that led to the charges against Sandusky, is not a target of the investigation. But the state police commissioner chastised him and other school officials for not doing enough to try to stop the suspected abuse.

Meanwhile, another potential victim has contacted authorities.

The man, now an adult, contacted the department on Sunday after seeing media accounts of Sandusky’s arrest, Lt. David Young at the Montoursville station said. Investigators took a statement from him and forwarded it to the Rockview station for officers there to pursue, Young said.

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, which first reported that the man had come forward, said he is in his 20s, knew Sandusky from The Second Mile charity the former coach founded in 1977 and had never told his parents or authorities about the alleged encounters from about a decade ago.

Young declined to release the man’s name or provide details about what he claims occurred.

The Patriot-News published a rare full, front-page editorial calling for this season to be Paterno’s last and for Spanier to resign immediately.

Published on Wednesday, Novermber 9, 2011 as: Paterno's job could be in jeopardy