Thursday, December 29, 2011

Juniata takes action during Sandusky investigation.

Juniata College, a Church of the Brethren-related school in Huntingdon, Pa., has been named in news reports of the investigation of charges against Jerry Sandusky, former football coach at Penn State. ESPN reported that in May 2010, Sandusky applied for a volunteer football coaching job at Juniata but was rejected after failing a background check ( ). Other media outlets followed up with reports that Sandusky continued to be on the Juniata campus parts of last year. On Dec. 16, Juniata president Thomas R. Kepple Jr. released the following open letter on the college website:
Taking Action: Juniata and Steps Taken During Sandusky Investigation

Dear Juniata Community, in the last several weeks, as the alleged actions of Jerry Sandusky have dominated news headlines, we have been talking with various media about the facts of Sandusky's having been present on our campus and around our football team during the 2010 season.

The story has rightly caused concern among our alumni, students, families of our students, and other friends of Juniata. To aid in your understanding of what happened and to give you confidence in what Juniata is doing about it, I will share three things: facts regarding our initial response, the facts about Sandusky's presence as we have known and have communicated them, and what we are doing to ensure such a situation does not occur again.

When Sandusky was initially arrested, Juniata administration received information and communication from individuals close to and employed by our football program. We interviewed athletics staff still here, reviewed public safety reports, and worked to ensure we understood the facts. We contacted the state police on Nov. 9, 2011, and let them know Sandusky had been around our team. We offered to be of assistance should they want to interview people or perform any other investigative work. To date, they have thanked us for calling, but have chosen not to do any work here.

Our current athletic director, Greg Curley, and current head football coach, Tim Launtz, communicated with players, reminding them of campus resources if they wished to speak with counselors. We encouraged players and coaches that, if they had information of any wrongdoing, to contact police. We also shared with players that if they were approached by media, to feel free to talk with them. We also offered players, if they wished, to work with our media relations professionals, to help them know what to expect if talking with press. We also ensured that our media relations professionals had the facts as best we knew them to respond to press, and urged campus staff to send all inquiries through them.

In the days and weeks that followed, various media outlets chose to accentuate some facts rather than others, and some outlets have made errors of fact. We have responded to news media as they have contacted us. While CBS 21 in Harrisburg first chose to break the story, we have shared facts with other media outlets prior to speaking with CBS 21, none of whom opted to run the story.

In August 2009, Jerry Sandusky gave a motivational talk to players, as one of several individuals who gave similar talks during the preseason. The former head coach, Carmen Felus, had numerous contacts in central Pennsylvania and asked them to come and talk with players.

In May 2010, Felus, then the football coach, asked to have Jerry Sandusky serve as a volunteer coach with our football program. As is standard practice with anyone who wishes to do significant volunteer work or work on our campus, Juniata ran a background check on May 27, 2010. We received notice on June 2, 2010, that Sandusky was under criminal investigation.

Sandusky did not mention the investigation on the form for his background check. He was informed in a letter sent to his home that he was to have no association with Juniata's football program.
At this point Juniata College did not know the full nature of the criminal investigation affecting Jerry Sandusky. We knew only that he was under investigation in Clinton County.

Our athletic director at the time, Larry Bock, and provost, Jim Lakso, instructed Felus twice in June 2010 that Sandusky was not to be associated with the program. When Sandusky was spotted in the press box at the Franklin & Marshall game on Sept. 25, 2010, Larry Bock again informed Felus that Sandusky was not to be part of the program.

We have learned recently that assistant coaching staff present in Fall 2010 were unaware of the ban on Sandusky, despite Felus having been directed to inform his staff and players. Juniata administration was not aware of Sandusky's reappearance and its increasing frequency late in the fall 2010 semester until the following spring semester, by which time the former head coach had resigned.

We have spoken with several current players and coaching staff and accounts of the degree to which Sandusky was present after Sept. 25, 2010, are varied. We now know Sandusky attended Sunday coaching meetings (at which players are not typically present), but do not know which practices he did or did not attend.

We do not know and will not speculate on the relationship between Sandusky and the former head coach, nor do we know or wish to speculate on the reasons Felus had for continuing to enable Sandusky to be present.

Juniata administration heard neither complaints nor commentary from any students, coaches, or athletes about Sandusky's presence during the fall 2010 semester.

Juniata made changes as soon as the former head coach resigned on March 3, 2011.

The first thing we did was to hire an upstanding member of the Juniata community to serve as head coach--Tim Launtz. Launtz's background as director of public safety and residence life made him student- and academics-centered, and he had a record of excellent communication and assistance with students, faculty and administration. Tim was made clear that we expected significant communication and collaboration, and he readily and enthusiastically agreed.

Since then, Tim has built positive relationships with the enrollment office, the Dean of Students office, the provost, alumni relations, and a host of other campus bodies. Tim has clearly and repeatedly shared the mission he has for Juniata football. I quote him here: "The mission of the Juniata football program is to make Juniata men. A Juniata man is a man who treats women with respect; does not lie, steal, cheat; does not use drugs; and respects the cultural differences of his teammates and the campus community. We want our student/athletes to receive a degree in four years, have a plan for their future, and know that they had a positive experience at Juniata."

I have spoken with Tim many times this fall both before and after this situation. He has elevated and broadened the communication and connection between Juniata football and the rest of the community.

When Larry Bock left for a new full-time coaching position at Navy in February 2011, we discussed the limitations (which Larry had pointed out and helped us to consider) of having an athletic director who coached at a time when he or she could give limited attention to football. As the sport with the largest roster, largest attendance, and largest gross budget, football had to have better oversight from an athletic director.

Our current athletic director, Greg Curley, a longtime Juniata basketball coach, has a season that begins after football ends. He has been able to work with Coach Launtz, be present at games, and provide oversight for our larger-roster sports (football, as well as field hockey, men's and women's soccer, cross country, track and field) while they are in season, given that basketball's season runs at a time with few other sports active.

Greg's focus with our coaches has reiterated communication and the primacy of Juniata's educational mission. We have an excellent coaching staff, and their words and actions repeatedly underscore that the education of our students is our top priority.

In January 2012, we will convene a meeting of Juniata's leadership team, comprised of supervising directors in administration across all campus units. In these meetings we discuss enrollment, budgets, operations, and generally the ways we can improve. Given the human resource issues this situation has involved, we will be discussing proper use and administration of chain-of-command, documentation of key communications, and a review of our whistleblower policies (recently strengthened by our Board of Trustees Audit Committee).

We have also started reviewing with our Office of Public Safety how to ensure people understand reporting burdens in the event of various crimes and access issues. We have emergency notification protocols in place, and routinely perform practice exercises with key administrative staff, so I am confident we will be able to update and remind key personnel of our collective duties and responsibilities.

Finally, our Board of Trustees has been fully informed along the way about these issues and our actions.

I cannot say enough good things about our faculty, students and staff here at Juniata. They are the source of all that is great on this campus, and their work is what defines us. Juniata is far more than the actions of any one individual. We are the collective achievements of many people who work to serve others, to promote peace and learning, and to change their communities and their world for the better. And because we are a community of learners, we will learn from what happened here, and work toward better things.

If you have questions, please contact me.

--Thomas R. Kepple Jr., President

Source:12/29/2011 Newsline

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