Penn State stands by its hire of FSU president who served during flawed Jameis Winston rape investigation

FSU's alleged misconduct is the subject of an investigation, but Penn State officials have defended their new hire

Published April 18, 2014 3:34PM (EDT)

The athletic department at Florida State University knew about the rape allegations against marquee player Jameis Winston early on in the 2013 case, which should have triggered an immediate investigation by the university. Instead, officials are alleged to have sat on the case for 13 months, electing to interview Winston only after football season had ended. (The interview may also have violated Title IX laws, according to reports.)

“Why did the school not even attempt to investigate the matter until after the football season?” asked John Clune, a lawyer for the accuser, in a New York Times report exposing the major flaws of the police and university handling of the case.

The school's conduct during the Winston rape case is currently the subject of an investigation by the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. And while the Times does not suggest that FSU president Eric Barron was aware of the allegations or the failed investigation, the report has raised questions about the decision by Penn State University -- still in the shadow of Jerry Sandusky's crimes -- to hire Barron as its new president.

But Penn is standing by its hiring choice. "Penn State’s presidential searches are confidential,” university spokesman David La Torre told the Centre Daily Times. “However, in electing Dr. Barron, the trustees conducted all appropriate, thorough background checks and investigations required by institutional policy for all employees.

“Penn State is pleased that Eric Barron will officially become the president of our university on Monday, May 12,” La Torre continued. “We look forward to his proven leadership as he takes the reins and guides the institution forward.”

Barron addressed the Winston case in a February press conference, where he urged the public to hold off on deciding "what's right or wrong in this particular case."

“It’s incredibly important that an institution follow due process, that we let the police do their jobs and the district attorney to do their jobs and, if it gets to that point, to have the courts do their job, “ he said at the time, according to the Centre Daily Times.

“And for the university to respect that, because if you sit there and examine what occurred with Jameis Winston, here are many alumni that are looking and saying, 'This man became a Heisman candidate and we moved to No. 2 in the polls and that’s why this is happening,’” Barron said. “And so there is this sense that you must support this quarterback, because look at this impact, and we’re so sure of what’s right or wrong in this particular case.”


By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

MORE FROM Katie McDonough

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Football Fsu Jameis Winston Jerry Sandusky Penn State Rape Rape Culture Sexual Assault Sexual Violence