Penn State scandal prompts local college review of sex abuse reporting policies

UC, Miami and Xavier among soul-searchers

CINCINNATI - From UC to Xavier to Miami and beyond -- Greater Cincinnati colleges and universities are all checking and double-checking their policies on reporting sexual abuse.

Virtually all of them began those discussions when former Penn State University football coach Jerry Sandusky was accused of abusing 10 boys.  They intensified when Sandusky was convicted and as the NCAA on Monday came down hard on the Penn State football program

The NCAA fined Penn State $60 million, forced the school to forfeit 103 victories from 1998 to 2011, reduced the number of allowable scholarships and said current players could transfer immediately without penalty.

UC Spokesperson Greg Hand said all institutions are doing soul-searching to make sure their houses are in order.

"The goal for the University of Cincinnati is to ensure that no one is going to victimized and that if anyone is being mistreated everyone knows that there are mechanisms in place and they will be followed to see that wrongdoing is stopped and punished," he said.

Hand said to do that every department on UC campuses is going through reviews.  That includes athletics, the auditor, financial aid, the police department and student affairs.

UC already has an anonymous reporting procedure in place that is explained to every new employee at orientation.

"They're required to sign a form indicating that they have read that this is available so that there aren't any excuses from somebody saying 'I didn't know what to do when I had this information,'" he said.

According to Hand, all of higher education has been damaged by the Penn State scandal. Colleges and universities are seen as places that are sheltered from the rest of the world.  However, major problems that come to light show that there really is no isolation.

Miami University Spokesperson Claire Wagner said student safety is a top priority because parents expect that sort of environment when they entrust their children to a school.

To that end, she said that Miami has had abuse reporting policies and opportunities in place long before the Penn State scandal became national and international news.

"There's a legal requirement called 'Right To Know,'" she said.  "We send out information about crime reports -- including sexual assault and serious crimes -- about Title IX requirement and about harassment reports.  That kind of information is made known and everyone is encouraged to educate themselves about it."

Miami also has an anonymous tip line to report abuse, harassment or the suspicion of either one.  The community is also reminded a few times a year about on-line reporting called "Ethics Point."

In addition, Wager said Miami requires criminal background checks on all members of the athletic staff and any adult who works sports camps for children on the Oxford campus.

Xavier University has had abuse reporting procedures in place that are regularly reviewed and updated by the Board of Trustees, President and management, according to Spokesperson Deb Del Valle.

"In addition to those procedures, Xavier recently added another reporting alternative by establishing an anonymous hotline for anyone to report anything they deem to be improper," Del Valle wrote in an e-mail.  "Xavier also established a strong statement of protection for whistleblowers."

Chris Sykora, President of the Cincinnati Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association, said in an email:

    This is another sad day for the Penn State community across the nation. While this latest
    offense is vastly outweighed by his previous convictions, the Penn State football student
    athletes have become the latest casualty of Jerry Sandusky's crimes.  As they have been
    since November, our primary concern will be the well being of the victims of child abuse.  
    Our local alumni will continue to uphold the positive values of Penn State University by
    supporting the Cincinnati community through our regular volunteer activities at Matthew 25
    Ministries, the Flying Pig Marathon and raising funds for pediatric cancer research.

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