“This letter is to inform you that the U.S. Department of Education (Department) intends to fine the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State; the University) a total of $2,397,500 based on the violations of statutory and regulatory requirements outlined below.” So begins the official notification, with justification and explanation, of the largest fine assessed to date by the federal government against a university for violation of that cluster of statute and regulation usually shorthanded as the Clery Act. It is possible that the University will contest this fine, though it is hard to speculate on what grounds. That alone might be cause enough to think about the implications of this fine and its underlying causes, as American universities consider these ramifications for their own operations.
To some extent, the letter, and the action was not unexpected by the wider community in the United States. It was a long time coming–the investigation began almost five years before. What is especially interesting is both the odd logic of the letter and what it suggests, not about Penn State’s failures before 2011, but those of the government itself. Equally interesting, perhaps more so, is the determination of the university itself, in its heroic efforts to move forward, to seek to obliterate the past, one might think, as if it never happened. One can only end an analysis of action and reaction with a sense that the lessons learned may well have been the wrong ones–both for the United States, and for the university it has sought to make an object lesson to advance its own agendas.
The U.S. Government’s letter may be accessed HERE. https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/sites/default/files/fsawg/datacenter/cleryact/pennstate/PennStateFineLetter.pdf
My thoughts follow along with the statement of high University officials follows and for background, the story as reported by the Associated Press.
Read more »