Political Science Professor Speaks About the Lessons of the Sandusky Scandal

Posted on 9/26/2012 2:03:56 PM

“IUP as an institution has a responsibility to ensure a safe campus,” Political Science professor Gwendolyn Torges told an audience in Fisher Auditorium on Monday, September 24, 2012. “But all of us—students, staff, and faculty—are what comprise the institution.”

Torges’s comments were part of a presentation that she and John Wesley Lowery, a professor of Student Affairs in Higher Education, gave as part of IUP’s Six O’Clock Series. Entitled “The Sandusky Case: Implications and Lessons for Higher Education and IUP,” Torges and Lowery explained how education about appropriate responses to sexual misconduct will help create a safer campus, which is a prerequisite for student success.

In the first half of the presentation, Torges talked about the sex abuse scandal at Penn State involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Torges focused on three incidents of Sandusky’s abuse of young boys on Penn State property, between 1998 and 2001, that were either witnessed by or made known to Penn State employees, and the responses—or lack of response—of Penn State officials. She then detailed the various repercussions for Penn State because of its institutional negligence, including NCAA sanctions and an ongoing investigation by the Department of Education that could result in tens of thousands of dollars of penalties for the university.

“The Sandusky case has served as a wake-up call for all universities,” said Torges. “We need to be sure not only that we have the appropriate procedures in place, but that students are aware of where to go and who to contact if they experience or witness sexual misconduct.” Torges added, “We are using the Sandusky case to help educate the IUP community about where to get help, and to foster an environment in which students are not afraid to come forward with information about sexual harassment or abuse.”

In the second half of the presentation, Lowery explained how Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972—known to the public primarily for its impact on gender equity in collegiate sports—has been interpreted to include protection against sexual harassment.

Lowery, who is regarded as a leading expert on topics related to legislative issues and student conduct in higher education, explained the broad scope of Title IX protection. He also explained the resources we have at IUP to assist students who experience or know of sexual harassment.

Lowery and Torges concluded their talk with five key lessons that universities can take from the Sandusky case:

  1. Compliance is not some individual’s responsibility, it is an institutional responsibility.
  2. All of us—students, staff,and faculty—comprise the institution.
  3. Complacency does not lead to compliance [of federal law and IUP policy]. Noncompliance will not be tolerated.
  4. Civil rights is about creating an environment in which all students can succeed.
  5. Creating a safe environment requires awareness of what to do and who to contact if you experience or witness sexual harassment or sexual violence.

A description of IUP’s reporting procedures for sexual harassment and sexual violence, including contact information, is available online on the webpage of IUP’s Office of Social Equity and Civic Engagement.

A more detailed description of Torges and Lowery’s presentation was published in the Sept. 25, 2012, edition of the Indiana Gazette.