PSU creates task force on campus sex abuse

Posted: July 04, 2014

Pennsylvania State University, which is under federal scrutiny for its handling of sexual assault cases, is creating a task force to better investigate and prevent such incidents on campus, the president announced Wednesday.

In an e-mail to Penn State staff, president Eric J. Barron said "we are confident" that the university's policies comply with Title IX, the law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and requires universities to investigate sexual assaults.

"However," he wrote, "I do not believe that we should be satisfied with compliance - instead we should become a true leader in the prevention of sexual assault and in investigating and adjudicating student-on-student sexual assault cases while best protecting the wishes, and where appropriate and possible, the confidentiality of the survivors."

Damon Sims, vice president of student affairs, will chair the task force.

The announcement came days after the Washington Post reported that Penn State in 2012 led the nation's colleges in the number of reported forcible sex offenses, with 56. The university told the Post that some of those offenses were newly reported but actually child-sex abuse by Jerry Sandusky in past years.

In a recent interview with The Inquirer, Barron had said he thought universities had not figured out how best to investigate and administer sanctions in sexual-assault cases.

"I think we're going to end up turning around and saying we need professionals who have an investigative responsibility and a decision-making responsibility on penalties," he said then.

Gabriel Gates, the university's administrator who oversees crime reporting, told The Inquirer last year that numbers were up for 2012 because of heightened vigilance across the university's 24 campuses in the aftermath of the Sandusky scandal.

"People are reporting everything now. I mean everything," Gates said then.

Sandusky, a former assistant football coach, is serving a minimum of 30 years in prison for sexually abusing young boys.

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