U seeks lessons from Penn State sex abuse scandal

  • Article by: JENNA ROSS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 12, 2012 - 7:12 AM

Kaler told Board of Regents that no dramatic changes are foreseen, but that campus must remain vigilant.

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University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler

Photo: Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

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The University of Minnesota is studying what lessons it might learn from the investigation into the Penn State child abuse scandal.

U President Eric Kaler announced Thursday that he is appointing a committee to craft a policy on protecting children on the U's campuses.

But he told the Board of Regents that while the university must be vigilant, no dramatic changes are needed. While the two universities have much in common, Kaler said, "I assure you we are in a very different place."

He said that the university meets nearly all recommendations in an independent report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who was hired by Penn State trustees to analyze the institution's failure to report sexual assaults by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

For example, the University of Minnesota's athletics compliance director reports to the Office of the General Counsel, rather than athletics. The structure was formed in 2000, after an academic fraud scandal enveloped the men's basketball program.

Kaler acknowledged that the University of Minnesota has dealt with its own "ethical lapses" over the years, including that academic cheating scandal. But it's been more than a decade since the university's last major NCAA infraction, he said.

The athletics department has "a thick file" with the NCAA, because it reports rule violations "no matter how apparently trivial they may be," Kaler said. He gave as an example a student athlete tweeting about two recruits on two consecutive days.

Other universities "report a suspiciously small number of violations," Kaler said.

During Thursday's work session, the regents discussed a report by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, released this week, which calls on governing boards to keep a closer eye on athletics.

Several regents said that while the U's structures seem to be strong, they must guard against complacency.

"It can happen anywhere. It can happen to us. It has happened to us," Regent Richard Beeson said.

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168 Twitter: @ByJenna

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