Faculty Senate receives updates on sexual assault and harassment initiatives

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The University Faculty Senate received an update Tuesday (Dec. 8) from Penn State President Eric Barron on implementation of several recommendations from the Task Force on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment. That includes plans to clarify and streamline training faculty and staff are required to complete and the creation of a universal hotline for reporting misconduct.

In February, Barron accepted all 18 recommendations the task force made. Of those, 11 are being overseen by the University’s new Title IX coordinator, and four are being handled by an administrative response team. In his comments, Barron said that as part of that, the response team is looking at how to minimize or remove confusion and streamline training requirements.

Those recommendations include working with Human Resources to implement employee training. That training covers harassment, Title IX, the Clery Act and child protection. Now that the training is in place, the response team is looking to integrate the training requirements into a single module that will be more effective and efficient. Barron said the team wishes to combine the estimated 3.5 hours of training into one module that will take less than an hour to complete.

The task force also is developing and implementing training for advocates and clinicians who work with victims of sexual assault or other misconduct that reflects the full spectrum of victims, and developing and implementing a new universal hotline for reporting all misconduct.

“Those four elements, which in my view accomplish what the task force report said it wanted to occur, at the same time taking this opportunity to become more efficient and effective on hotlines, on training, on the terminology — are how we should move forward,” Barron said.

As part of the task force recommendations, the Faculty Senate, along with the vice president and dean for Undergraduate Education and the vice president for Student Affairs, is in the process of developing educational programming for students’ wellbeing and safety.

Also Tuesday:

-- Chair Mohamad A. Ansari appointed the special Joint Committee on General Education Assessment.

-- Provost Nick Jones discussed several topics, including reclassification of rooms at University Park so they are available as general-purpose classrooms. Jones said the effort stems from the transition to Classroom Optimizer, a new space management system. Better use of resources along with a decision to delay construction of a new classroom building were factors. Jones said the review started with hundreds of rooms not in the general-purpose classroom pool, and through several steps the list was narrowed down to about 50 to 60 that can be used as general-purpose classrooms.

He emphasized that the rooms are not being taken away from departments, but will be included in a pool so they are available for scheduling classes. Most departments will not see an impact, but a class or two a week could be scheduled in the rooms, taking up about 6 hours.

--The Senate approved six legislative reports including one from the Special Committee on the Implementation of LionPATH.

--The Senate approved a revision to the tenure clock for the College of Medicine, extending the period for faculty review from seven years to 10 years. The longer timetable is in keeping with practices at peer institutions and takes into consideration the challenge junior faculty may have in obtaining grant funding as early as their fifth year.

“We feel that there are instances in which we are losing out with our competition because of the seven-year tenure clock,” said Craig Hillemeier, dean of the College of Medicine and CEO of the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

He noted that the seven-year timeframe makes it difficult to achieve extramural funding because many junior faculty receive awards that are five-year mentored awards and don’t count as external funding.

The approved advisory and consultative report will be sent to Barron for approval and implementation.

--The Senate received two forensic reports and three informational reports. That includes an informational report that followed up on the Faculty Senate Health Care Task Force Report from April 2014, which included a number of recommendations. The informational report presented Tuesday included responses from the Benefits Office in the Office of Human Resources and the Senate Committee on Faculty Benefits on those recommendations.

—The Senate heard about the Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force website, http://diversity.psu.edu/, which is designed to share information and engage the Penn State community.

Last Updated December 09, 2015