The Berks-Mont News (http://www.berksmontnews.com)

Improving campus safety focus of PASSHE audit, says Auditor General

Auditor General says government, college leaders working together is best way to protect students, staff, visitors

By From Department of Auditor General

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

HARRISBURG >> Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced Oct. 7 that his department’s ongoing performance audit of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education will include a comprehensive review of how the agency is complying with state and federal laws related to campus safety and sexual violence prevention.

“Despite many efforts to prevent such incidents, we continue to see media accounts nationwide of sexual assaults and violence on and near college campuses,” DePasquale said at a news conference with State System Chancellor Frank T. Brogan and representatives of state-owned universities. “The recent suspected abduction of a female student at the University of Virginia once again has many Americans focused on the issue of campus safety.

“As government and education leaders, it is not enough for us to ensure that our state institutions are operated efficiently, we also have a critical responsibility to do everything in our power to protect students, faculty, staff, and visitors on our campuses.”

The auditor general said the audit will determine the extent to which the State System ensures that the 14 state-owned universities develop and implement policies and procedures to fully comply with federal and state laws and regulations related to campus safety, including sexual assault prevention, sexual violence awareness, and protection of minors.

DePasquale noted that in July the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight released the results of a national survey of 440 four-year colleges and universities that showed that many institutions nationwide are not doing a very good job at reporting, investigating, and adjudicating sexual violence. The subcommittee report noted such problems including, a lack of sexual assault response training, poor support for victims, and failure to investigate sexual assault reports.

“The U.S Senate report cites a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistic that indicates one in five undergraduate women has been the victim of attempted or completed sexual violence during their college career,” DePasquale said. “We must be absolutely certain that our State System of Higher Education has all the tools they need to eliminate this horrible statistic.”

“Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education has been proactive in its efforts to ensure the health, safety and welfare of everyone who comes onto our campuses—students, staff and visitors,” said State System Chancellor Frank T. Brogan. “We can never do enough. We look forward to working with the auditor general and others who can help us identify and implement additional safeguards that will further enhance the effectiveness of the many programs already in place. We hope the ongoing audit will identify best practices that can be shared across the entire State System and with the rest of higher education.”

“The universities take campus safety very seriously, with every university employing a state-certified police force to enforce federal and state law, and student affairs professionals who offer prevention programs and administer university policies that responsibly respond to acts of violence should they occur,” said Clarion University of Pennsylvania President Karen Whitney, representing the State System’s Commission of Presidents. “We also look forward to working with the auditor general to further enhance these efforts and ensure—to the greatest extent possible—the safety of every one of our students.”

The auditor general’s performance audit — launched in June — will cover the period starting July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2014. It is anticipated that the audit will be completed in 2015. Additional specific audit objectives will be determined following a preliminary survey phase where auditors will gather background information that should help streamline the audit process.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education includes 14 state-owned universities, including Kutztown University.

The Department of the Auditor General ensures that state-owned and -aided facilities follow state laws and guidelines when they spend state funds. These audits identify ways that state tax money can be spent more effectively and efficiently.

Audit reports are available online at www.auditorgen.state.pa.us.