Dialogue on the Freeh Report
our tradition of dialogues between the LAUS Dean and the President of the LAUC with you today. The dialogues are intended to open a space of mature and honest communication with students in which we can address issues of central concern to the College and the University. There is, of course, no more pressing issue of concern today than the recent release of the Freeh Report.
The report outlines the failures of senior leaders in the university to act on behalf of the safety and welfare of child victims of a sexual predator, and of a university culture of deference to authority that prevented reports of crimes to flow to proper authorities (14, 127ff). It designates the transformation of this culture as the most challenging task facing the Penn State community (18).
As a member of the faculty, an administrator, a husband and a father, I want very much to contribute to the transformation that we need to accomplish together, but I must admit, I feel tremendously saddened, disappointed and even disheartened as I read through this report. I wonder about the students; how are you feeling?
KaseyOKeefe: I would say the vast majority of students share that disappointment and sadness you mentioned, Dean Long. We came to Penn State trusting those in power, and expecting them to live up to the upstanding reputation that we were proud to become a part of. We felt let down in November, when it felt like the rug was being pulled out from under us, and I believe that feeling returned today, reading a summary of everything that went wrong over the course of many years. Further, as young adults and simply as human beings, it is extremely upsetting to see people we respected put children's lives in jeopardy for the sake of careers and reputations.
Along with these uneasy feelings, however, comes a strong sense of unity and promise of hope for the future of Penn State. Many students have been tweeting or posting on Facebook all day the reasons why they are proud to be Penn Staters, and they have been urging others not to blame the whole University for the actions of few. Additionally, as you mentioned, the report calls for a transformation, and students are also looking forward to being involved in that process. A group of student leaders released a statement this morning, which assured us that they "will do the best [they] can to ensure that our institution diligently reviews and considers the recommendations laid out in the Freeh report." I believe we students ultimately expect to see these changes made by our administration, want to continue placing the victims and their well-being as a priority, and look forward to carrying ourselves in ways that will restore and reinforce Penn State's good name.
LAUSDeanLong: Throughout this process, Kasey, I have been impressed by the thoughtful manner in which most Penn State students, and particularly our students in the College of the Liberal Arts, have responded to the crisis. We will need your best talents as students of ethics and psychology, of political science and sociology, of history and communication, to navigate a way to the "values- and ethics-centered community" of which the Freeh report speaks (129). Can we think together here, and perhaps ask students to think with us in the comments below, about what we can do in concrete terms to create a culture of accountability and ethical decision making?
KaseyOKeefe: I think the main way that we can help create this culture is ongoing communication and discussion among all members of the Penn State community. Since November, Penn State students, faculty, and alumni have begun asking more questions and actively seeking out information of our decision making bodies. I believe the way we encourage accountability and ethical decision making is to continue these actions, such as following the Board of Trustees meetings and not letting them slip to the back of our minds again. We should also continue to push for student voices to be heard among administrators, allowing these meetings to have a mix of perspectives and opinions. Finally, we can promote open and constructive discussions among students and faculty. For example, these LAUS blog posts can provide a platform for non-threatening dialogue between students, faculty and administrators in the College of the Liberal Arts. I would like to encourage anyone to comment below and add to this discussion with your thoughts and suggestions about the topic.
LAUSDeanLong: The voices of students will be critical to our ability to move toward a more open and self-critical community. In that spirit, let's open our discussion to others and invite comments and reflections below about how we can best cultivate a renewed culture of accountability at Penn State.
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