New policies after Penn State

Universities should ensure new preventative policies are meaningful and do not harm quality education.

In the wake of the 2011 sex-abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky, a former football coach at Penn State University, several states’ governments and universities nationwide have enacted new laws and policies in the hope of preventing similar gross transgressions on their campuses.

Large universities, which are unable to closely monitor every aspect of campus life, are right to display concern about the safety of their students and local communities.

The multiple oversight collapses that happened at Penn State — largely at the athletics level — are a driving force behind new policies. The University of Kansas rewrote its bylaws to heighten the consequences for employees who fail to report sex crimes — these employees may now be fired as a result. Similarly, the University of Mississippi created a new policy that prohibits anyone 18 or older from having one-on-one contact with minors.

It’s vital that universities and state lawmakers use the lessons learned from the Penn State scandal to prevent similar tragedies from happening again. The changes some schools have made are a good step in improving the safety of students and others.

However, it is also important to remember that Jerry Sandusky, a despicable individual, is just that — an individual — and reactionary policies, though some may be effective, can have unintended consequences.

As they justifiably implement new protective policies, university administrators nationwide should ensure that the quality of education, as well as the benefits of school-sponsored children’s camps, is not inhibited by new policies.

Try though they might, retrospective statutes cannot erase the crimes of one man, nor can they completely shield the public from the crimes of
another.