IUP lecture explores sexual assault protocol
September 25, 2012 11:00 AM

Awareness and education about sexual assault will create safe campuses for students, but it is up to the university community as a whole to be responsible and spread this awareness.

That was the message delivered Monday as Indiana University of Pennsylvania held its weekly Six O'Clock Series lecture Monday night in the Fisher Auditorium. The lecture was titled "The Sandusky Case: Implications and Lessons for Higher Education and IUP."

Presented by the IUP Haven Project, the discussion featured Gwendolyn Torges, political science faculty member, and John Lowery, of the student affairs in higher education faculty.

Torges opened the lecture with a brief explanation of the details of the Sandusky case. Jerry Sandusky, assistant coach at Penn State, was charged with 48 counts of sexual abuse involving the molestation of young boys. He was found guilty on 45 counts.

The case rocked the Penn State community and lead to criminal charges being brought against athletic director Tim Curly and senior vice president Gary Schultz. It also lead to the firing of president Graham Spanier and head football coach Joe Paterno.

The investigations also lead to numerous lawsuits, fines and heavy NCAA sanctions.

"We're not here to talk about the need for laws and regulation," Torges said. "What we are going to do is become more aware."

A campus awareness of the laws and implications would have helped the victims, she said.

The goal of Monday's discussion was to focus on two things: to promote awareness and educate students about the procedures that are already in place at IUP and who they can go to should they need to report harassment.

This presentation is not about condemning the people involved in the Penn State scandal, Torges said.

"This is about genuine desire to learn from these mistakes and to move forward."

Torges focused on three of Sandusky's victims: one victim whose mother had reported to university police that Sandusky had been showering with her son, another victim who two janitors had witnessed being abused by Sandusky, and finally, the often cited victim who was seen by assistant football coach Mike McQueary.

In two of the three cases, official investigations were launched. In all incidents, statements were made that were passed on to university officials, she said.

A Department of Education investigation could find Penn State in violation of the Clery Act. A lack of compliance with this act could lead to higher fines for Penn State than any other college has faced. The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act requires all colleges and universities that receive federal aid to record and disclose information about crime on their campuses.

Most importantly, Penn State was in violation of the Title IX portion of the Education Amendments of 1972, she said. Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex. It is an extension of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race or ethnicity. Under Title IX, sexual harassment, including sexual violence, is considered a form of sex discrimination.

This brought about the ultimate purpose of Monday night's presentation, which was to promote an understanding and awareness of what Title IX means to college students and how they can use it.

"We associate most commonly Title IX's protection to students," Lowery said, "because that is who is most involved in these suits."

The scope of Title IX is much larger. Harassment can occur between faculty and students, or student to student. Harassment is also not confined to gender.

If an incident of sexual harassment or violence occurs on the IUP campus, students are encouraged to report it to campus officials so they can take immediate steps to end the harassment.

Rhonda Luckey, vice president of student affairs, has been named IUP's Title IX coordinator. Kate Linder, of the center for student life, is the deputy coordinator.

The lessons that IUP and all campuses can learn from this incident is that compliance with the law is an institutional responsibility, but the entire campus makes up the institution.

"Complacency does not equal compliance," Lowery said.

A respect of civil rights will creates a safe environment where students can succeed, he said.

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