The task force created in July by Acting President Richard Englert to review the report by Judge Louis Freeh on Penn State’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal released its report last week and outlined a number of recommendations for further review of Temple’s policies and procedures.
The 13-page report outlined a number of recommendations by the task force – now named the Task Force on Institutional Integrity – which consisted of 11 administrators and four senior administrators who staffed it. Much of the report centers on the idea of protecting minors at the university.
The task force recommended that the university consider creating a “university integrity officer.” This person or persons, or an alternative structure other than an officer, would oversee activities and interactions with non-student minors, the report said. The task force also proposed the idea of keeping a list of activities involving minors.
The task force also recommended a change in university residence halls’ overnight policies with regard to minors. The change was enacted before the start of the fall semester and said that no non-student minors could be in residence halls between the hours of midnight and 8 a.m.
While the university placed a moratorium on non-student minors visiting university residence halls overnight, the task force cautioned that a complete ban on these visits could create unintended negative consequences. The report said such a ban could prevent opportunities for sibling bonding, younger siblings to identify with Temple as a possible destination, student-athlete recruitment and students who are parents of minor children to spend time together.
“I think that the task force recognized that there were many laudable reasons why someone under 18 [years old] might be [aided by] spending a night in one of our residences,” said Dean of Beasley School of Law JoAnne Epps, who chaired the task force. “But that can also give rise to issues of concern, so what I think the task force is saying is that that’s a good example where we need to ask ourselves, ‘How do we make sure that the good parts of this practice are facilitated and worrisome ones are prevented?’”
The task force also suggested the university conduct an investigation aimed at improving the transparency of activities involving non-student minors and ensuring that people have clear and accessible information about what to do when inappropriate conduct is suspected. The report said a confidential, online form to report inappropriate activity exists, but may not be easily accessible.
The task force also recommended the university’s “whistleblower” policy to encourage people to make reports of misconduct without fearing retaliation named, “Anti-Retaliation in Employment,” be cross-referenced in the employee manual under the familiar “whistleblower” description in order to make it easily accessible.
The report outlined recommendations to improve training for Campus Security Authorities, which are mandated under the Clery Act. The task force noted that Temple has a slew of CSAs, but Epps said periodic reminders of their duties were recommended by the committee.
Athletics were mentioned separately in the report, which noted that while it is subject to oversight by the NCAA, the Temple community must resist the tendency to let athletics become isolated and unaccountable.
The panel found that those at Temple who were subject to Pennsylvania Act 33 were generally compliant with the law, which requires those interacting in activities with minors to be subject to background checks before beginning any activity, but recommended that compliance with it be added to the Department of Internal Audits’ reviews.
The task force’s many recommendations were all noted in the report, but Epps said that no one recommendation or area of review took priority before the rest outlined in the report.
“I can’t really say that one area takes priority over another,” Epps said. “The incident at Penn State makes all of us mindful that we have to be ever vigilant and there are lots of places where we can ensure that what we are doing meets the best possible standards. So, we found a great deal to be pleased about, but places where additional questions would certainly be appropriate.”
The task force met six times and even though it only had two months to put together its report, Epps said the time was “completely adequate for the task we were given.”
The report’s conclusion noted that the members of the task force were impressed by the many practices and procedures already put in place by Temple to ensure compliance with the Clery Act and the protection of non-student minors at Temple, a statement echoed by Epps.
“The task force was impressed by the breadth of attention already being given to protecting minors on campus and to the range of policies and procedures that encourage that protection,” Epps said.
Englert, who commissioned the report, said in a letter preceding the report that he has created a small group to assist in designing an implementation strategy that considers recommendations made by the task force.
The report recommends that the president present responses to recommendations from the report to the Board of Trustees in Fall 2013.
Neil Theobald is expected to assume the presidency on Jan. 1, 2013.
Sean Carlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SeanCarlin84.