Dear Faculty, Staff and Students:
We are all saddened and shocked by the developments this past fall at Pennsylvania State University (PSU) regarding alleged sexual abuse by PSU personnel on university property. As I conveyed at the 12/2/2011 meeting of the Board of Trustees, our first commitment must be to the safety and well-being of all members of our community and visitors to our campuses. An important aspect of living up to this commitment is meeting our moral and legal responsibilities to report observations or information related to criminal behavior or misconduct.
With this in mind, I remind you that any member of the University community who witnesses criminal behavior, including sexual abuse or violence, by a University employee, or any person who has access to University premises, should report it to law enforcement officials immediately. It's also the ethical duty of University employees to report any such behavior to a supervisor, higher-level administrator, and/or to the University Ethics Office. These reporting responsibilities apply equally to all, regardless of title, status, or seniority. Students should also follow these guidelines, reporting such behavior to administrators or to the University Ethics Office. The University Ethics Office can be contacted via the toll-free help line at 1-866-758-2146.
Additionally, the University has an explicit policy in place, known as the Whistleblower Policy, that can be invoked to respond to any alleged reprisal or retaliation that arises from the reporting of suspected wrongful conduct. U of I employees who make a good faith effort to report suspected wrongful conduct are protected. See 'Disclosure of Wrongful Conduct and Protection from Reprisal Policy' at http://www.ethics.uillinois.edu/policies/whistle.cfm.
Also at the 12/2 meeting of the Board of Trustees, I announced that we would be reviewing our policies and procedures related to how we respond to observations or reports of criminal behavior or misconduct. This review will be coordinated by Thomas R. Bearrows, chief University Counsel; Donna McNeely, University Ethics Officer; and Maureen Parks, Executive Director of Human Resources. The team will examine state and federal laws, along with our own policies and procedures involving situations of alleged crimes or misconduct, and they'll also examine situations in which background checks for employees may be appropriate. They have already begun their work and will make regular progress reports to me and to our Board of Trustees.
As part of this initiative, the University is also strengthening its sexual harassment awareness program for employees. It is important for all employees to understand the law in this regard, as well as the expectations for appropriate workplace behavior. We will keep you apprised as these plans are developed.
I remain impressed by the level of compassion, acts of kindness, and genuine sense of community I observe everyday on our campuses. One of our greatest virtues of any community is the sense of responsibility for one another and this is a virtue that is already strong among us, but one we can always strengthen more.
I look forward to updating you on the review team's work.
Michael J. Hogan
University of Illinois
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