Message to the Liberal Arts community from Dean Welch

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November 18, 2011

To our Liberal Arts community,

Penn State is a strong institution. In the weeks ahead, we will show the world that we are also a resilient institution. Our great purposes of providing our students with an excellent education, discovering new knowledge, and disseminating that knowledge to benefit our communities and the world are as important as ever.   During these terrible last two weeks, we have grieved for child victims and have been humbled and distraught by institutional failures to help prevent this abuse.   We know that the University has been changed by this series of events, and we are resolved to build a better, more ethical institution, one that lives up to its expressed commitment to honesty, integrity, and humanity.

The liberal arts have much to teach us at times like this, with our understanding of ethics and human values, human and organizational behavior, and the tragedies that comprise much of human history.   I am pleased that  so many of our faculty have addressed the ethical and institutional issues at the heart of the scandal in relevant ways as teachers, and that our advisors and staff who daily come in contact with our students have provided insight, consolation, and support.

We have been proud of our Liberal Arts students and student leaders during this time of crisis with their leadership in the "blue-out,"  candlelight vigil, and other activities focusing on the victims of child sexual abuse.  Currently, our students are conducting a blog conversation on ethics, institutional culture, and character as they relate to the Penn State scandal.  And you might appreciate this video prepared by students (I'm not sure how many of these students are Liberal Artists).

I also appreciate the work of our staff during these troubled times.  They have kept the College going even as they struggled with their own grief, sadness, and shock.  Thank you.

All parts of the University and our College are filled with good and caring people, yet there is concern that there is something about the University culture that leads people to believe that if they report a wrong being done they will suffer.    As President Erickson stated in his promise to the Penn State community,  "Never again should anyone at Penn State feel scared to do the right thing."  He has indicated that his door is always open.

I too am always willing to hear your questions and concerns.  I am embarrassed when people apologize for asking a question or raising a concern.  Of course, you should expect accountability from me even as we expect it from all members of the University community.  Earlier this week our department heads, unit leaders, and deans discussed ways that we can make our own deliberations more transparent.

Let me say explicitly that if you see a crime, find a place of safety and call the police, 863-1111.  Telling your supervisor or head can come later.  If you need emotional support in making that call, do not hesitate to ask for it from your supervisor, head, or Sean Moeller, director of administrative services.   There are many ways to report suspicions of crime or other misdeeds.  There are so many that it may seem confusing.  If you wish to be anonymous, call the ethics hotline, available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 1-800-560-1637 and online at   (If you are asked for an Access ID, it is PSU). We were able to discover an employee's wrongdoing recently because of a tip over that hotline, and we are grateful for that ethical action.  I have attached a document containing information on other places to call for help or to report misdeeds, one on what to do in case of threats, and a third that is a general list of helping resources for any employee of Penn State and their family members..

Penn State will not be defined by the events uncovered last week, even as we have been changed by them.  We know that what we are reading, hearing, and seeing in the media is a combination of fact, fiction, rumors, and speculation.  We must wait for the truth to come out even as we continue our work. Know also that our alums remain devoted in their support to Penn State and to our College and its faculty, staff, and students; I have been overwhelmed by the hundreds of messages of support they have sent us.

An institution can only be as good as the people who comprise it.  Like humans, then, institutions are not perfect.  But we are a community of people who committed to an ethical path to excellence.  Again, thank you all for your continuing support and dedication. I am upbeat about the future of Penn State.


Susan Welch

Susan Welch Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts

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