U looks at lessons from Penn State report

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  • October 11, 2012 - 1:40 PM

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

U President Eric Kaler told the Board of Regents on Thursday that he will appoint a committee to create a new policy on protecting children on the U's campuses.

But he stressed 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 the recommendations given in the Freeh Report. For example, the University of Minnesota's athletics compliance director reports to the Office of the General Counsel, rather than athletics. That reporting 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.

The board 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. It says:

As spending on athletics by colleges and universities continues to rise, accompanied by mounting public ire about ethical and moral misconduct, it is critically important that governing boards monitor and oversee the impact of athletics on the academic missions of the institutions for which they have fiduciary responsibility.

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

"So 'humble' is a good word as we dissect this very unfortunate situation at Penn State."

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