UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – In a letter to faculty and staff July 2, Penn State President Eric Barron addressed two serious issues facing the University and announced the creation of two groups that will help the University deal with these challenges.
“It has been a great pleasure to take the helm of Penn State and I have been busy learning as much as I can about our great University,” Barron wrote. “Although I see opportunities and challenges on a number of fronts, I would like to begin to address two important issues. The first is sexual assault and sexual harassment, and the second is health care.”
Nationwide, colleges and universities are grappling with the issue of sexual assaults on campus. The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights is reviewing more than 60 universities, including Penn State, for compliance under Title IX , which prohibits discrimination based on gender in education programs and activities receiving federal funding.
“We are confident that our investigation and hearing policies at Penn State comply with Title IX, and are fair and reasonable,” Barron wrote. “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.”
Barron announced that a task force would advise the University on how to improve the campus climate and programs.
Serving on the task force will be:
-- Damon Sims – vice president for Student Affairs (chairman) -- Sue Cromwell – director of workplace learning -- Julie Del Giorno – athletics integrity officer -- Andrea Falzone – psychologist in Counseling and Psychological Services -- Charmelle Green – associate director of athletics and deputy Title IX coordinator -- Patricia Koch – professor of biobehavioral health, health education and women’s studies in the College of Health and Human Development -- Ken Lehrman – vice provost for affirmative action and Title IX coordinator -- Peggy Lorah – director of the Center for Women Students -- Kimberly Sue Menard – assistant professor of criminal justice and women’s studies, Penn State Altoona -- Allison Newhart – associate general counsel -- Spencer Peters – victim resource officer with University Police -- Joe Puzycki – assistant vice president for Student Affairs -- Danny Shaha – director of student conduct and deputy Title IX coordinator -- Lisa Squire – assistant vice president for Commonwealth Campuses -- Student representatives will be added in the fall
Also in his letter, Barron praised the work of the Health Care Task Force, which made recommendations in April for how the University can keep insurance costs down, improve employee health and better communicate changes.
“Its recommendations and topics for future investigation are extremely worthwhile,” Barron wrote. “At the same time, we know the landscape for health care is rapidly changing and each year brings new challenges in balancing affordable, high-quality health care for our employees along with the costs of providing these benefits.
“This year, University health care costs exceeded $220 million dollars, with an increase this year alone of more than $12 million dollars.”
He announced that the new Health Care Advisory Committee will “assess current and future trends, emerging opportunities and provide thought leadership in the areas of insurance, health care delivery, health care spending, academic research, health and wellness initiatives, and communication.”
Serving on the committee will be:
-- David Gray – senior vice president for finance and business (chairman) -- Susan Basso – vice president for Human Resources -- Dr. Bill Bird – vice chair for clinical services at Penn State Hershey Family Medicine -- Dr. Kevin Black – vice dean of the University Park Regional Campus of Penn State College of Medicine and chair of the Department of Orthopedics -- JoAnne Carrick – campus director, Penn State Shenango; member of Health Care Task Force and Faculty Benefits Committee of the Senate -- Keith Crocker – professor of insurance and risk management, Smeal College of Business -- Joe Doncsecz – associate vice president for finance and corporate controller -- Alison Franklin – graduate student and member Student Health Insurance Task Force -- Robin Haas – director of employee benefits -- Gary Langsdale – director of risk management -- Paula Milone-Nuzzo – dean of the School of Nursing -- Allison Newhart – counsel to the committee -- Dennis Scanlon – professor of health policy and administration, College of Health and Human Development -- Dennis Shea – associate dean and professor in Health and Human Development; chairman of task force on graduate student insurance issues -- Rachel Smith – University budget officer -- Regina Vasilatos-Younken – professor of endocrine physiology and nutrition, and interim dean for The Graduate School.
Barron invited faculty and staff who received his letter to provide feedback on either or both issues.