Task force evaluating Freeh Report largely calls for further review, examinations

The university task force charged with evaluating the report on Penn State’s failures to protect children recommends many further reviews.

A team of university officials commissioned to review the findings of the Freeh Report has released a report and recommendations after two months, outlining additional reviews and potential action items, in the name of protecting minors, by Fall 2013.

Acting President Richard Englert, in a university email, commended the task force for its work – a Temple-minded review of an independent report that casted top Penn State administrators as officials who covered up the wrongdoings by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys. That report was led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh.

Chaired by Dean of the Beasley School of Law JoAnne A. Epps, the task force – now called the Task Force on Institutional Integrity – drafted a 13-page report, which largely calls for more reviews of policies and procedures and recommends university attention be focused on different areas in the coming months. Much of the report centers on the idea of the safety of non-student minors on campus.

For one, the task force recommends Temple create a “university integrity officer,” or more than one, to oversee events and interactions with minors who are not students, and to ensure the university complies with laws and regulations. A “representative list” of the types of events held at the university involving this group should be maintained, the committee suggested.

The task force also acknowledged its role in a policy change that imposes restrictions on minors’ presence in residence halls; guests under 18 can no longer stay between the hours of midnight and 8 a.m. However, the policy may be tweaked upon further review, the committee suggests in the report, noting that the policy could have negative consequences that are unintended.

“Specifically, such a ban would prevent opportunities for appropriate sibling bonding, younger siblings to identify with the University as a desirable college destination, student-athlete recruitment, and students who are parents of minor children to spend time together,” the report states.

Likewise, the task force said the university should evaluate transparency of “policies involving interaction with non-matriculated minors” and ensure the Temple community has accessible information about the protocol if one “suspects inappropriate conduct.” It also calls for a list of “best practices” for activities that involve interaction with minors.

In terms of campus safety, the task force noted that university Campus Security Authorities, mandated under the federal Clery Act, should receive more formal and regular training, and that they should be “regularly reminded of their status and provided training as to their responsibilities.” The report also discusses the importance of creating a culture that feels compelled to report misconduct.

Adequate staffing of the officials responsible for Clery Act reporting is another area Temple should explore, according to the memo. Currently, one part-time employee holds that task.

In calling for more transparency, the task force suggested the Board of Trustees and administrators conduct an independent evaluation to determine if procedures are “appropriately transparent” and if the groups are “appropriately informed of important matters, and whether constituents feel adequately heard and their positions appropriately respected.”

While speaking highly of Temple’s past compliance in terms of athletics, the task force warned against “the tendency to allow the Athletics Department to become isolated and unaccountable” – a point that many have raised in reaction to the scandal that unfolded at Penn State.

The panel also said university leadership should issue a strong statement reaffirming the culture at Temple and its expectations.

Although it doesn’t call for outright immediate action by the university, the task force recommended the university president report actions stemming from the report to the Board of Trustees in Fall 2013. Neil Theobald is expected to assume the presidency in January 2013.

Since being assembled in mid-July, the task force met six times before issuing its final report Sept. 15.

Angelo Fichera can be reached at afichera@temple.edu or on Twitter @AJFichera.

For more on this, pick up The Temple News on Tuesday, Oct. 2 or check back with temple-news.com.

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