Joint Working Group establishes policies for reporting child abuse
CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, Cynthia Maxwell Curtin’s name was misspelled. The Daily Orange regrets this error.
Syracuse University’s Joint Working Group met Friday to reflect on recent accomplishments, as well as discuss necessary changes for the future.
The Joint Working Group’s goal is to analyze SU’s policies and the university’s responses to allegations of misconduct. The group consists of both Board of Trustee members and university administrators, with trustee Howard Phanstiel serving as the chairman.
One of the Working Group’s major accomplishments was the recent release of directions for all staff and faculty to follow when reporting child abuse, said Kal Alston, senior vice president for human capital development.
“It’s a guide for people to know where they can get assistance if they see something,” Alston said. “Obviously, if they see something happening, we want them to call 911, but that’s not always what’s happening. Sometimes it’s just a suspicion or a question, and we want to give them the access to people who could help them unwind their concerns.”
The specific procedures, which were released on Friday, have instructions for mandated reporters and “all other members of the University community” who witness or have suspicions about questionable behavior, such as child abuse, within the SU community. Mandated reporters are individuals, such as physicians and psychologists, whose profession legally requires them to report suspected child abuse or maltreatment.
The document also emphasizes the importance of informing the Department of Public Safety and agencies such as the Syracuse Police Department of any suspected abuse. This way, the university can keep track of what is happening and “intercede in whatever way they need to,” Alston said.
Developing these directions for reporting child abuse took a significant amount of time, Alston said. The document went back and forth among various parties to make sure it had the right components.
“We got a sense that individuals may not be entirely comfortable or sure of what they’re seeing,” Alston said. “They’re not sure what it is. People are human beings.”
Another major accomplishment that was discussed in the Working Group’s meeting was the policy changes made to summer programs.
With 5,000 school-aged children part of the SU summer programs, the university provided additional training and discussion with those managing camps or individuals who may interact with children. Parents and participants were provided with information of who to contact should any concerns arise.
Members of the Working Group will be meeting with supervisors from the summer programs to address any issues that might have occurred. Alston said she didn’t think there were any major problems due to her close contact with those in charge of the summer programs.
We really addressed the major issues that were particular to athletics and were successful in moving on to the broader campus.
Kal Alston, Senior Vice President for Human Capital Development
Alston also recently hired a Title IX officer, Cynthia Maxwell Curtin. She said Curtin will be deeply involved in policies relating to sexual harassment, abuse and assault. As Title IX officer, Curtin will also deal with issues encompassing gender equity in education, specifically in regards to sexual harassment, equity in access to programs and equity in science, technology and athletics.
The Working Group has given the Athletic Department’s policies priority, Alston said.
The Working Group has worked with the Athletic Department to rewrite five policies.
Such changes include an age limit regarding the participation of minors at basketball games, an emphasis on the no hazing policy and the supervision of minors during team practices.
The Working Group is currently in the process of rewriting the Athletic Department’s employee handbook.
Alston said that the handbook was “getting dusty” and needed to be updated. The new handbook will be online and more dynamic.
“We really addressed the major issues that were particular to athletics and were successful in moving on to the broader campus,” she said.
The Working Group’s current priority is to provide the SU community with thorough and proper training. The plans for training were made in the summer, but couldn’t be executed until students, faculty and staff were back on campus.
“We will be doing one set of training for people who do investigations and one for people who are on the various adjudicating bodies, such as the Office of Judicial Affairs,” Alston said. “All of those folks will be getting a thorough training in the policies and the ways in which they should think about adjudicating those cases.”
There are also plans to develop a broader training with the potential help of an online element, Alston said.
“We can’t get 17,000 students and 8,000 employees in one room,” Alston said. “We’re going to work through the best ways to touch the most people with information because it’s helpful for people to know what the policies are and how they’re responsible for carrying them out.”
Alston said she thinks the Working Group will continue through the end of the academic year, but said she hopes it accomplishes a majority of its goals by this December.
Said Alston: “It never pays to be too satisfied in our efforts, but I do think people have worked pretty hard to get us to this point and I feel like we have a pretty good road ahead of us.”
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