Board of Trustees

Task force to issue report on sexual misconduct complaints at Penn State trustees meeting

In July, President Eric Barron announced the formation of a task force to address and make recommendations for how to better handle sexual assault and sexual harassment complaints on Penn State’s campuses.

On Friday, members of the task force will present their report, task force chairman and Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims said at Thursday’s meeting of the board of trustees Academic Affairs and Student Life committee.

Sims said the committee will make 18 to 20 recommendations with the hope that the outcome will result in the university becoming a national leader in addressing and finding solutions to the problem of sexual misconduct on college campuses.

Among the recommendations will be the hiring of a Title IX coordinator who will have a staff and resources and who will report to Sims in the Office of Student Affairs.

There will be mandatory training to help provide faculty and staff throughout the university system with a better understanding of how to report and respond to sexual assault and harassment allegations.

Climate surveys will be taken to gauge student opinion across all campuses; improvements will be made to educational programming on the issue; and a bystander initiative will be implemented with the goal of greater levels of prevention and responsiveness.

Another change will be a move away from student conduct hearings to a more investigative approach to handling individual cases. An investigator will interview the parties involved, in addition to any witnesses, and a report will be written and submitted for review, eliminating the “quasi-court” model that now exists, Sims said.

Barron and other university leaders will review the report and, once approved, Sims said, there will be a high-profile rollout of the policies and recommendations. The final report will be presented to the board of trustees at its March meeting, he said.

“I have been deeply impressed by the expertise, thoroughness and commitment among the task force members,” Sims said.