- A day before former Penn State University President Graham Spanier was due to begin at least a two-month jail sentence for one count of child endangerment, a federal judge vacated his conviction and ruled that he was improperly charged for his actions in connection with the Jerry Sandusky abuse case.
- The Associated Press reported that U.S. Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick told prosecutors they have three months to retry 70-year-old Spanier, ruling that a 2007 version of the law was unfairly used to charge him for his alleged actions in 2001.
- Spanier was removed from the university's top post just after Sandusky, a football coach, was arrested in 2011 for sexually abusing children. Spanier faced accusations of a covering up Sandusky's crimes a year later, and he was convicted of child endangerment in 2017.
Spanier is one of several college administrators being held accountable for allegedly covering up or not taking action when confronted with cases of sexual abuse on campus.
In November, for example, former Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon was arraigned on charges of lying to the police about her knowledge of complaints against former sport doctor Larry Nassar, who was sentenced up to 175 years in prison after he was accused of sexually abusing hundreds of women under the guise of medical treatment.
Simon faces two felony and two misdemeanor charges, which carry up to four years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Two other Michigan State officials have been charged in the case, including a former gymnastics coach and Nassar's former boss.
Universities can face serious financial repercussions from sexual abuse scandals. Last year, Michigan State reached a $500 million settlement with Nassar's victims, and as of January it has racked up nearly $20 million in legal fees. Penn State's payouts to Sandusky's victims have surpassed $100 million.
Likewise, the University of Southern California agreed to pay $215 million to settle a federal class-action lawsuit involving allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct by its former gynecologist, George Tyndall. Similar to Michigan State, U of Southern California could end up paying around $25 million in legal fees.
However, U of Southern California's case also demonstrates how college presidents can end up relatively unscathed from sexual abuse scandals on campus. Although its former President C.L. Max Nikias stepped down in the wake of the scandal, the Los Angeles Times reported that he retains considerable influence over the university.
Susan Resneck Pierce, a former college president, told Inside Higher Ed that college presidents must create a culture where they're informed of sexual misconduct allegations. Fears of bad publicity should not lead presidents to engage in a cover-up, she added, which can lead to greater reputational and legal fallout.