Temple begins addressing Auditor General’s recommendations

The university established working groups to make improvements to Temple’s processes surrounding employee background checks and sexual harassment training.

Temple University is in the process of responding to suggestions made by the Pennsylvania Auditor General. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / FILE PHOTO

Temple University is in the process of addressing suggestions made by Pennsylvania Auditor General Timothy DeFoor in an April 2021 report that examined several university’s practices including employee Child Protective Services Law background checks and sexual harassment training from July 2016 through June 2019. 

The Auditor General may periodically review state agencies or state-affiliated agencies including state-related universities, like Temple, said Ken Kaiser, vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer of the university. 

Temple has formed working groups that collaborate to implement the suggestions on background checks and sexual harassment training that the Auditor General detailed in his report, Kaiser said. 

“We have worked to put improvements in place in an ongoing basis since the Child Protective Services [Law] was put in place, and also sexual harassment training and harassment training, in general, has been an ongoing concern and focus,” said Sharon Boyle, associate vice president for human resources at Temple.  

Temple Human Resources, University Counsel, Risk Management and Temple Athletics are working together to address the report’s recommendations for improving employee background checks, Boyle said.

The audit issued 11 recommendations to the university regarding background checks after the report found Temple did not ensure university employees and internal youth program workers received and maintained their clearances in a timely manner and that Temple did not review background clearances for workers in external youth programs, The Temple News reported

Temple will improve its timing in ensuring that youth program employees have their clearances before these programs begin, Kaiser said. 

The risk management office will check in with Temple-led youth programs and ask program supervisors for proof of background checks conducted on staff members, said Lisa Zimmaro, associate vice president of the risk management and treasury department at Temple.

“In the event that the supervisor cannot produce those documents, we will stop the camp, shut it down until, or unless, they can give us those documents,” Zimmaro said.

Temple Athletics primarily works with youth programs, Kaiser said. Temple Athletics declined to comment. 

Temple employees are no longer able to start their job until their clearances are completed, Boyle said. Temple is now able to enforce this requirement because a provisional period for employees to submit their clearances has been eliminated, Boyle said.

This requirement began in approximately January 2020, when the law changed and mandated that background checks be completed before employees start working, Boyle wrote in an email to The Temple News. 

Temple began issuing automatic reminders to both the employees and hiring managers to complete necessary background checks in 2018, Boyle wrote. 

The audit tested the effectiveness of this system by selecting 10 employees who were hired by Temple in December 2018 and needed criminal and civil background checks, according to the report. The audit found that only six employees obtained criminal and civil background checks, while the remaining four employees did not have any criminal or civil background checks on file. 

Temple said that those four employees did not respond to email requests to conduct the background checks, according to the report. Temple’s procedures to induce a response from the employee did not occur. 

Temple is also conducting internal training in human resources and with users to ensure that employees understand that certain answers to questions during the hiring process will provoke background checks, Boyle said. 

Temple is not able to background check every employee because it conflicts with Philadelphia laws, like the “Ban the Box” law, Kaiser said. The “Ban the Box” law 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

Most of Temple’s changes to background checks will take effect July 1, Kaiser said. 

The second working group that is examining the Auditor General’s recommendations regarding employee sexual harassment training includes Temple Human Resources, the Office of Equal Opportunity Compliance, Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership and University Counsel, Boyle said.

The audit issued seven recommendations to the university about its employee sexual harassment training procedures after finding that Temple did not have a defined way of tracking when employees completed sexual harassment training, The Temple News reported

Temple implemented a new system around spring 2019 that reports and tracks when Temple employees have completed sexual harassment training, Boyle said. 

“This system allows us not only to better track who has completed the training, but also to push out reports to school, colleges and departments about who has not completed it,” Boyle said. 

Employees were notified of Temple’s sexual harassment training policy during their orientations beginning in approximately 2000 or earlier, Boyle wrote. 

Temple also began sending weekly reminders to employees who did not complete their electroninc sexual harassment training and implemented the requirement for employees to complete electronic sexual harassment training around 2014, Boyle wrote. 

However, the audit found that in August 2018 Temple eliminated its ongoing sexual harassment training for existing employees and instead replaced the training with a sexual harassment policy acknowledgment, The Temple News reported

Temple will now implement an in-person or online training for existing employees every two years instead of using the policy acknowledgment, Boyle said. This change will most likely take effect within the next year, she said. 

The university will begin locking employees out of TUPortal who do not complete their training around fiscal year 2022, Kaiser said.

It is difficult for Temple to host an in-person sexual harassment training because of the large number of employees at Temple, Boyle said. 

Temple’s Internal Audits department will also hold the university accountable for improvements based on the Auditor General’s report. This will be done as the Internal Audits department will release an audit containing corrective actions that must be adhered to. To ensure that these corrective actions are being enforced, follow-ups will take place.  

“We let the administration make their decisions, follow through on implementing their corrective actions as they outlined in their responses, and then we come in and audit it,” Dale Venturini, associate vice president and chief audit officer at Temple. 

Temple’s internal audit will examine the changes, policies and procedures that the university makes based on the Auditor General’s report, Venturini said. Audits in the following fiscal years will be conducted as necessary, he said. 

“Auditor General DeFoor appreciates Temple’s efforts to adopt as many of the performance audit report’s recommendations as it can,” wrote Gary Miller, a spokesperson for the Auditor General, in an email to The Temple News. 

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