SACUA passes resolutions regarding incidents at Penn State, UC campuses
The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs passed resolutions Monday condemning recent police action against protesters at two University of California campuses, and proposing steps to guard against criminal behavior on campus, particularly sexual abuse of children.
Both resolutions are to be considered at the faculty's next Senate Assembly meeting Dec. 12.
The resolution regarding criminal activity on campus grew out of the recent child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State and the recognition that U-M hosts a variety of activities involving children, from day care to sports camps and other summer programs.
"Although we hope that similar incidents could not be possible at the University of Michigan, we are concerned about the conditions that apparently allowed these alleged crimes to be both perpetrated in the first place and hidden from public view for so long," the resolution states.
SACUA says the Penn State incident "may highlight two separate, but related, issues" — the under-reporting of criminal behavior on campuses in general and the under-reporting and investigation of sexual assaults in particular.
"For these reasons it is critical that students, staff, faculty and administrators take individual responsibility in matters of suspected or actual criminal activity," the resolution states. "It takes a team effort, and shared sense of responsibility, to keep our community safe for everyone."
SACUA suggests U-M take a national leadership role in addressing criminal behavior on campus and proposes several actions, including:
• A system of checks and balances for reporting and investigating criminal activity to ensure the fair treatment of all citizens of the university community.
• Implementing procedures that rapidly attend to the special needs of victims of violent crimes and crimes involving vulnerable victims.
• Reviewing all programs involving minors and other vulnerable groups on campus to ensure sufficient protections are in place.
• Developing training and education programs for faculty and staff dealing with vulnerable populations.
President Mary Sue Coleman, who was at the meeting to discuss a variety of topics with the faculty governance panel, said she shares SACUA's concern and recently sent a letter to the U-M community outlining steps people can take if they are a victim of or witness to questionable activity.
She said she has asked Suellyn Scarnecchia, vice president and general counsel, to initiate a review of all areas that involve children, looking at such issues as policies and procedures for identifying and reporting abuse, training and screening, what is known about people who may be in the state's Sex Offender Registry, and where gaps in current policies and procedures may exist.
SACUA Chair Kate Barald said the second resolution is in response to incidents last month at UC Berkeley and UC Davis in which students and faculty engaging in peaceful demonstrations were hit or pepper sprayed by police, requiring several of the protesters to be hospitalized.
"We wanted to express our solidarity with the people injured," said Barald, professor of cell and developmental biology, and biomedical engineering. She added she is confident such "brutality and blocks in communication and oversight would never happen here."
"We call upon university administrations and their governance bodies nationwide to exercise every restrain and to encourage dialogue should such peaceful demonstrations occur on their campuses," the SACUA resolution says.