Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:
Late last year, a Special Committee of our Board of Trustees retained an independent law firm to investigate the University’s procedures in handling the allegations that surfaced in 2005 against former Associate Head Men’s Basketball Coach Bernie Fine. Earlier today, the Special Committee released its report.
The report concluded that upon receiving the allegations in 2005 we acted in good faith and professionally in responding to and investigating them. The report cites certain things, with the benefit of hindsight, that should have been done better or differently. I supported the Special Committee’s review at the outset and support its recommendations now so that we can respond most effectively in the event we ever again become aware of allegations of sexual abuse. The report can be found on the University’s website, www.syr.edu.
In addition to the Special Committee’s review, a Joint Board of Trustees/SU Working Group on Policies Related to Sexual Conduct, Campus Culture, and Safety, has been working since December to undertake a comprehensive review and analysis of University policies in the areas of sexual harassment or abuse. This review has had a specific focus on areas of the University in which campus community members interact with minors. There are now new rules and policies regarding programs in which minors are involved, including new notification and reporting protocols for summer programs, and the Athletics Department has adopted policies about supervision of minors. New training programs will be instituted across broad areas of the University and the Working Group has established a schedule for periodic review of all relevant polices so that they continue to exemplify best practices in the field. The Working Group’s efforts are still underway and they expect to report on their work to the campus this fall. In addition, their work will be complemented by a committee created by the University Senate in February to examine University policies and practices in these areas.
Our goal remains fostering a safe and secure environment for all members of the University and the community. The most important things now are that we continue to learn from these events over the long-term and that anyone impacted by abuse or harassment is able to come forward in a supportive environment.
I will study and reflect further on the report I received today and will join all of you in discussing how to ensure that the important conversation generated by these events—in Syracuse and elsewhere—does not end. We can always do better, and it is my hope that our community can continue to come together, vastly wiser and stronger moving forward.