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Barron Appoints Sexual Assault, Harassment Task Force

by on July 03, 2014 10:09 AM

Penn State University President Eric Barron is taking action he hopes will help curb sexual violence at the university.

He's appointed more than a dozen administrators to a Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Task Force.

Barron announced the move Wednesday in an email to the Penn State community.

The announcement comes at a time when Penn State is one of several universities under investigation for possible violations of federal law regarding the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.

The U.S. Department of Education's Civil Rights office announced in May Penn State is one of at least 55 colleges under investigation for possible violations of federal law regarding the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.

Officials say the investigations stem from complaints received by the Civil Rights office and those initiated by the office as compliance reviews. At the center of the investigation is Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits gender discrimination in all education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.

All universities receiving federal funds must comply with the law or risk losing federal funding and be referred to the U.S. Department of Justice for further action.

"We are confident that our investigation and hearing policies at Penn State comply with Title IX, and are fair and reasonable," says Barron. "However, 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."

The task force is charged with evaluating Penn State's responses to sexual assault and other forms of sexual or gender-based harassment. The task force will then make any necessary recommendations for the university's programs, policies and practices for addressing sexual violence.

Barron has also asked the task force to "pay special attention to programmatic efforts to educate our community about sexual assault and sexual violence more broadly, including its causes and the great individual harm that results." Additionally, Barron asked the committee to look at potential improvements to investigative practices and procedures.

Penn State University has seen a dramatic increase in such crimes since 2010 when four on-campus sexual assaults were reported compared to 56 in 2012. The university attributed the increase to the crimes of Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant football coach and convicted pedophile, as well as an increase in university training related to sexual assault prevention and reporting.

Members of the task force include:

-- Damon Sims, vice president of Student Affairs, task force chairman

-- Sue Cromwell, director of Workplace Learning

-- Julie Del Giorno, athletics integrity officer

-- Andrea Falzone, Counseling and Psychological Services

-- Charmelle Green, associate director of athletics and deputy Title IX coordinator

-- Patricia Koch, professor of biobehavioral health

-- Ken Lehrman, vice provost for affirmative action and Title IX coordinator

-- Peggy Lorah, director of Center for Women Students

-- Kimberly Sue Menard, assistant professor of Criminal Justice and Women's Studies

-- Allison Newhart, associate general counsel

-- Spencer Peters, university police officer

-- Joe Puzycki, assistant vice president of Student Affairs

-- Danny Shaha, director of Student Conduct and deputy Title IX coordinator

-- Lisa Squire, assistant vice president for Commonwealth Campuses

Barron says student representatives will also be added to the task force.

"We have no greater priority than the safety of our students, faculty and staff, and we should and must work constantly to improve our campus climate and programs," he wrote.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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