Scandal at Penn State Highlights Need for Legislation Mandating Stronger Reporting Requirements for Colleges and Universities in New York

November 9, 2011

“The recent scandal at Penn State University involving legendary football coach Joe Paterno, highlights a serious problem that needs to be addressed in New York State,” said Assemblyman Edward C. Braunstein (D-Bayside). “Currently, there is no mechanism in the law to mandate that colleges and universities notify local authorities when informed about violent crimes committed on campus. Absent this requirement, many colleges and universities frequently attempt to ‘handle’ these incidents in-house out of fear that contacting the police would generate negative publicity for the school.”

Earlier this year in an effort to address this problem, Assemblyman Braunstein introduced legislation (A.7476) which requires colleges and universities in New York State to alert authorities within 24 hours of learning of a violent felony committed on campus. “All too frequently we hear stories about on-campus crimes, often sexual in nature, that are swept under the rug by colleges in an effort to protect their reputation,” said Assemblyman Braunstein. “This creates a system where criminals are not held accountable for their actions and parents are not given the facts about the safety of the school where they choose to send their children. The statistics indicate that 1 in 5 college females are the victims of actual or attempted sexual assault and a shocking 95% of these cases go unreported. The deplorable actions of the Penn State’s administration are far too common and we cannot accept similar behavior here in New York.”

Senator Roy McDonald (R-Saratoga) has signed on as a Senate sponsor of this important legislation.

“We need to protect and take care of everyone, that’s our most significant responsibility in government and as elected officials. Making sure that these crimes are reported to the proper authorities not only ensures justice, but will also act as a deterrent against this type of unacceptable activity in the future,” said McDonald.

“As the ranking minority member on the Senate Higher Education Committee (and former Chairwoman), this bill is appropriate, timely, and necessary. What happened at Penn State is a horrible abuse of trust by an authority figure. This crime should have been reported promptly to the police,” Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Whitestone) said. “Our bill would require such crimes to be reported to the police within 24 hours. This type of incident could have happened anywhere, especially in an environment where sports trump academics.”