Pennsylvania Auditor General Timothy DeFoor recommended Temple University strengthen its employee background checks, sexual harassment training for employees and its capital improvement plan, after completing an audit of the university from July 2016 through June 2019, according to a press release from the auditor general’s office yesterday.
Temple is among state-supported universities that are subject to occasional audits, wrote Gary Miller, a spokesperson for DeFoor, in an email to The Temple News.
The auditor chose employees and youth programs based on judgement or by random, Miller wrote.
Temple’s Internal Audits division will be conducting periodic reviews in all three issue areas to implement the audit’s recommendations, wrote Ray Betzner, a spokesperson for the university, in an email to The Temple News.
Temple worked with the Auditor General’s office since the audit was announced in August 2018, Betzner wrote.
“We are pleased to say that we have either completed or are in the process of completing changes to address recommendations made for each of the three areas of interest addressed in the report,” he added.
The auditor general appreciated Temple’s cooperation with the audit and receptiveness to its recommendations, Miller wrote.
The audit is divided into three sections, including evaluations of the university’s employee background checks, sexual harassment training and capital improvement plan from July 2016 through June 2019, according to the press release. Here is what the audit found:
CLEARANCES AND BACKGROUND CHECKS
The auditors randomly selected 40 of 1,962 employees that received a Child Protective Services Law background check or criminal or civil background checks to “evaluate whether the applicable background clearance or checks were completed according to state law and Temple policy,” according to the audit.
The auditors used their judgement to select 40 of 9,562 employees, based on their job titles and descriptions, who did not receive a Child Protective Services Law or criminal or civil background checks to determine if those screenings were required for them, according to the audit.
The audit found that Temple did not ensure that all internal youth program workers received and maintained their background clearances required by Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law in a timely manner, according to the audit.
The Child Protective Services Law requires that people who work or volunteer around children, or want to be a foster or adoptive parent must obtain background clearances, like a criminal history and child abuse clearance, according to Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services website.
The audit examined eight of 159 external youth programs operated by third-party vendors at Temple facilities between July 2016 and December 2018 and found Temple did not review the background clearances of workers in these programs. Instead, the university trusted statements on the Facility Use Agreements and registration forms that the third-party vendors would comply with all necessary laws, including the Child Protective Services Law.
Temple additionally did not obtain Child Protective Services Law background clearances for four of 31 employees that were selected for the audit’s review in a timely manner and did not complete required criminal and civil background checks for 10 of 22 employees that were selected for the review, according to the audit.
The audit found that Temple had no formal policy regarding criminal and civil background checks for its employees and did not complete a Child Protective Services Law or criminal or civil background check for 83 percent of newly-hired employees, according to the audit.
“While it is not a legal requirement in Pennsylvania to conduct a background check on all prospective Temple employees, requiring new hires to undergo some form of background screening would greatly enhance student safety,” the audit reads.
Temple also did not verify that workers in youth programs were the same individuals detailed on registration forms, according to the audit.
The audit issues 11 recommendations to improve Temple’s employee background checking process, including obtaining, maintaining and evaluating all Child Protective Services Law background clearances of independent contractors hired by Temple and ensuring that background clearances of new hires are obtained and reviewed, according to the audit.
The audit also recommended the Pennsylvania General Assembly consider legislation requiring all university employees, contractors and their employees and other volunteers who would have direct and routine contact with minors to get Child Protective Services Law background checks, according to the audit.
Temple changed its policy to get rid of the provisional period for the Child Protective Services background check in December 2019 and the provisional period for criminal and civil background checks is being eliminated effective July 2021, Betzner wrote.
No one will work at Temple until their background checks are authorized, he added.
The university must also follow Philadelphia’s “Ban the Box” initiative, also known as the Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards Ordinance, Betzner wrote.
“Ban the Box” restricts when employers can inquire about a person’s criminal history and how that information can be used, according to the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations website.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT PREVENTION
The auditors randomly selected 20 of 5,220 non-student, newly-hired employees, as well as 20 existing employees, to evaluate for compliance with Temple’s sexual harassment training policy, according to the audit. The audit considers new hires as non-student employees that were hired after July 1 2016.
The audit found that Temple did not have a system or written protocol to monitor when sexual harassment training was completed and that nine of 20 new employees who were reviewed in the audit did not complete the required training.
All university employees are responsible for completing the university’s online non-discrimination, anti-harassment and anti-retaliation training upon initial employment, according to Temple’s policies and procedures manual addressing discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
The manual was last amended in September 2020 and states that employees may be asked to complete the training again after initial employment at the discretion of Temple’s president, according to the document.
Temple “failed to design and implement adequate oversight, due in part to weaknesses in its tracking system, to ensure all new employees received the required training on preventing and addressing sexual harassment,” according to the audit.
Temple replaced its infrequently used sexual harassment prevention training for all employees in August 2018 with a yearly policy acknowledgment, according to the audit. This was not in accordance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which recommends, if possible, that harassment prevention training be conducted on a regular basis by live trainers, according to the audit.
Twelve of 55 employees, reviewed for the audit, did not complete Temple’s policy acknowledgment in Fall 2018, and Temple shared that 23 percent of employees did not complete the policy acknowledgment, according to the audit.
The audit issued seven recommendations for strengthening the sexual harassment training system at Temple, according to the press release.
“The university is developing processes and implementing controls that will allow management to more effectively monitor and enforce compliance moving forward,” Betzner wrote.
The auditors randomly selected seven of 42 projects from Temple’s 2014 campus master plan, “Visualize Temple,” and an additional 2017 list of projects from the provost to determine if each project was justified and obtained required approval, according to the audit.
While Temple’s need for capital projects, or campus construction projects, are in line with the “best practices” for the university, the university lacks a process for prioritizing needed capital projects and allocating limited resources, according to the audit.
The audit also found that while Temple accurately documented its major capital projects, the university needs to improve its outreach to stakeholders, like the City of Philadelphia and City Council, to determine if there is support for projects before Temple makes significant investments.
For example, Temple spent approximately $1.3 million evaluating, programming and designing an on-campus stadium before holding a community town hall meeting about the stadium. Temple then abandoned the project after being met with protests from the community and a lack of City Council support, according to the audit.
The audit recommended Temple reach out to community and City Council stakeholders before incurring significant costs and describe how it prioritizes capital projects and handles changes to its campus master plan, according to the press release.
A group has been established at the university to evaluate and update capital policies and construction priorities so that Temple prioritizes health and safety, Betzner wrote.
Temple also complies with Philadelphia’s zoning process that includes the Civic Design Review and opportunities for public comment, and has partnered with the North Central Special Services District to obtain public comments on the university’s priorities for projects, Betzner wrote.