In 2012, the Penn State Lions went 8-4 on the field, passing 3,283 yards, rushing 740 yards, and scoring 349 points. This credible performance earned it a respectable 38th ranking out of the 124 schools in the NCAA’s Division I Football Bowl Subdivision. But few will remember Penn State’s athletic performance in 2012. What people will remember instead is that 2012 was the year the University’s Special Investigative Counsel issued its report into the actions of Penn State Coach Gerald Sandusky.
This experience, which captured the attention of the nation, is not unique to Penn State, and not even unique to big sports schools. Earlier this year, on September 4th, Brandeis University, a small private research institution in Waltham, Massachusetts, published its Independent Investigation Counsel’s report following a review of alleged abuses by its Athletics Department. According to the University, the review took months to complete, and included more than 150 interviews of players, coaches, students, and faculty, and a review of more than 30,000 documents. The announcement accompanying the report noted that “a second report that focuses on a broader examination of campus climate…will be completed later this semester.”
While Penn State and Brandeis University are quite different institutions athletically (indeed, Brandeis disbanded its football tea in 1960), their interest in and need to implement broad-based organizational reforms are the same. Implementing meaningful, lasting organizational reform, however, is no easy task. The Internet is littered with stories of institutions heading down the road to reform only to have their path blocked by one obstacle or another. As lawyers, we often are called upon to implement ethics and compliance programs in the corporate and higher education sectors — and as the judicially-appointed Monitors responsible for overseeing the New Orleans Police Department’s (NOPD’s) compliance with a 492-paragraph Federal Consent Decree — we constantly are exploring ways to implement sensible, practical, meaningful, and lasting change.
In a recently published article titled From the Big Easy to the Big Ten, and Beyond: What the Process of Reforming the New Orleans Police Department Can Teach Colleges and Universities, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP attorneys Jonathan Aronie, David Douglass, and Joseph Jay dive into their experiences with implementing and sustaining organizational reform, offering tips for institutions of higher education.
For even more information on these tips for institutional reform, listen to Sheppard Mullin’s Podcast Nota Bene Episode 8: Eight Lessons to Lasting Corporate Reform with Jonathan Aronie, where Jonathan Aronie provided additional insights and lessons learned from his experience as a Federal Monitor overseeing the New Orleans Police Department.