Penn State accepts recommendations to cut sexual violence

edited by blazinaSaying he wants Penn State to be a national leader in the fight against campus sexual violence and harassment, university President Eric Barron has accepted all 18 recommendations made by a university task force.

“By accepting the report and its recommendations, I am setting our community on a path to create an environment in which sexual misconduct is unacceptable, reporting is encouraged and survivors are supported to the fullest,” Mr. Barron said in a video released with Tuesday’s announcement.

Mr. Barron said sexual assault and sexual harassment have been “vastly underreported and have no place in our community.”

Penn State is among a number of schools in Pennsylvania and across the nation under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights regarding issues related to sexual assaults.

Like others not under investigation, University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher sent a memo to faculty and staff spelling out their obligations for reporting sexual assaults.

At Penn State, the 17-member task force, created in July, issued a report last month. To start, Mr. Barron said, the university will hire a full-time Title IX coordinator and allocate resources for a stand-alone office. Title IX, a federal law, prohibits sex discrimination in education and other federally funded programs.

The recommendations also call for allocating “required resources” at other Penn State campuses to “establish the full complement of victim support services necessary in a model institution.”

The recommendations also provide for training throughout the university, including all employees and first-year students, who would take a required course that “explores issues of student well-being and safety, with an emphasis on building positive relationships and preventing sexual misconduct and alcohol misuse.”

Other recommendations include:

• Replace the current sexual assault hotline with a more effective means for receiving reports while still maintaining an online system for anonymous reporting.

• Change the approach of the Office of Student Conduct in sexual misconduct cases from traditional hearings to an investigative model.

• Survey the campus this spring to assess the scope of the problem.

• Analyze sanctions for sexual misconduct to see whether the consequences were appropriate and how many might have been better resolved with a restorative justice approach.

• Require most employees to report sexual misconduct.