There are a number of legal issues, and administrative practices, that will arise as a result of the Jerry Sandusky case. However, this first trial is not where those issues will get discussed and processed. This criminal trial is about sexual assault, and nothing more.
The criminal trial that will have a great deal of interest for those of us in higher education will come with the perjury and obstruction of justice trial for Senior Vice President Gary Schultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley. How they acted in response to learning of the allegations against Jerry Sandusky will likely impact changes in reporting protocol in areas with potential harm (like hazing). The news in this area comes from a report that NBC News has indicating that there is an e-mail trail between Schultz, Curley and then President Graham Spanier that indicates an agreement to not report the allegations and alert social services. If this report is accurate, it would not be a surprise to see Spanier also charged with obstruction.
Once these criminal trials are over, the civil trials will also likely have a lasting impact on higher education. The civil cases will likely include a wide-variety of defendants (the University, the Athletic Department, the Second Mile charity, many individuals, etc.), and be very complex. The civil case will likely be the most comprehensive analysis in understanding all of the connections in the case. Of course, should any of the individuals mentioned above be found responsible in the criminal cases, it is more than likely that the civil cases will be settled before a trial.
The nature of this case, along with the death of Robert Champion at Florida A&M, will raise many questions about policies and procedures on campus when there is potential for harm. In both cases it appears that administrators knew about significant concerns, and did not act in a way to prevent future harm. The minimum standard for reporting is likely to change, and the duty to protect will impact a lot of policies on campus.
For those of us advising fraternities and sororities, these questions will be asked in relationship to hazing and alcohol abuse. Do we know about illegal activities that are potentially harmful? Are we doing everything we can to address those issues?
As I said, the details of this Jerry Sandusky trial are not worth watching. It is everything else around this case that will have lasting importance.