Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

PSU president to implement all 18 task force recommendations on sexual assault

PSU President Eric Barron has adopted all 18 recommendations from a university task force on sexual assault and harassment.

Penn State President Eric Barron has accepted all 18 recommendations from a task force on sexual assault and harassment, including requiring most employees - from janitors to professors and secretaries - to report allegations of sexual misconduct.

Barron said the university will move first to hire someone to oversee all issues around Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and requires universities to investigate sexual assaults..A standalone office also will be created.

Many of the rest of the recommendations will be implemented over the next 12 months, he said.

"I found that every recommendation has merit, and that when combined , those actions represent a strong and comprehensive response to sexual violence and harassment on our campuses," he said in a statement.

The 17-member task force was convened in July and put out its report last month.

The new reporting rule for employees would require most of the school's 34,000 employees to report to a campus official "all relevant details that have been disclosed to them about any alleged sexual misconduct, including the names of the person sharing the information and the alleged perpetrator, if those names are known."

Currently, campus security authorities are required under the federal Clery Act to report sexual misconduct, but no other employees are, unless the misconduct involves a child or the workers are in a supervisory role that has certain expectations.

Employees could offer to refer a victim to a mental-health counselor or certain other staffers who could keep the story confidential.

All employees will receive mandatory annual training about sexual assault. Under a panel recommendation, students no longer will serve on panels that hear cases and decide on sanctions. Only trained faculty and staff will fill that role. Also, an investigator will interview victims, the accused, and witnesses, then prepare a report for the panel. Now, the victim and the accused go before the panel and tell their stories.

"Bystander" training will be offered so employees and students so they can learn what to do if they see a potentially harmful situation, not just limited to sexual assault.

Penn State is among a growing number of universities that are examining their practices in the wake of increased scrutiny over their handling of sexual assault and harassment.

More than 90 universities, including Penn State, are under review by the federal Education Department for their handling of sexual-assault cases. Some universities also are facing lawsuits by men who say they were falsely accused and disciplined.

In the first four months of the academic year, 13 students at Penn State's main campus and four at other campuses reported sexual misconduct, the task force stated. Last year, there were 24 reports on the main campus and one at a branch campus.