University statement related to the Office for Civil Rights' letter of findings

March 26, 2020

Penn State has entered into a voluntary resolution agreement with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) following an investigation that began in 2014 to determine the University’s compliance with federal Title IX regulations. Title IX protects people from sexual discrimination in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.

The University worked with OCR on this resolution agreement and looks forward to implementing that agreement according to its terms. With respect to the OCR’s letter of findings, the University did not receive a copy in advance nor did we have the opportunity to review or comment prior to its release.

The OCR review of Penn State’s practices encompassed individual complaints as well as a broad look at reports of harassment and sexual misconduct over a six-year period to see how they were handled by the University. Many of the findings from OCR’s review relate to a number of past practices, which during the six-year timeframe of the investigation have been addressed by Penn State leadership. Any remaining findings will be the immediate focus of the University’s efforts to more effectively meet OCR guidance and the needs of our community. Generally, the resolution agreement requires Penn State to provide additional information to OCR, to update its policies and procedures, and to conduct expanded training for members of the University community.

The University remains committed to increasing the responsiveness of its policies for our students and employees. We believe this review by OCR will assist Penn State in improving how it addresses the issue of sexual violence, misconduct and harassment on campus in the future.

As part of this investigation, Penn State produced more than 80,000 pages of documentation related to policies, procedures, training, specific investigations, record keeping and more. Penn State has worked diligently to comply with the changing regulatory landscape of Title IX, and has updated relevant processes over the last several years, as well as undertaken a thorough review of all policies, programs and protocols related to sexual misconduct and harassment.

Penn State shares OCR’s mission to foster a campus environment free from discrimination, harassment, and sexual violence. The University has in place a comprehensive action plan to increase compliance with Title IX requirements. Our efforts have focused on prevention, awareness and education, as well as the creation of a new, stand-alone Title IX office with a designated director and new investigative specialists and support staff. In addition, the University implemented mandatory annual training for all University employees on the topic of reporting misconduct.

With OCR’s guidance, the University will make identified additional improvements in how it responds to allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. We will continue to provide support, resources and services to those who may have been impacted by incidents of sexual or gender-based misconduct, and will oversee the prompt and equitable resolution of complaints for all involved.

At Penn State, our priority remains protecting the health, safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and visitors. We plan to work together through this process on a wide array of efforts to further strengthen and refine practices to create an environment free of sexual violence, retaliation and discriminatory conduct.  

Last Updated March 26, 2020