Kaler creates committee to review child safety at U

At a Board of Regents meeting on Thursday, he addressed the Freeh Report

by Nickalas Tabbert

In response to Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University last fall, the University of Minnesota will create an ad hoc committee to develop a new child safety policy.

Campus policies and procedures for child sexual abuse are strong, said  University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, but the committee will review and develop a new policy on the safety and protection of children on the University of Minnesota campuses. He expects a presentation of the group’s findings by May.

At a Board of Regents session on Thursday, Kaler led a discussion about what the University can learn from the Freeh Report, an indendent investigation released by Louis Freeh and his law firm this summer after the Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.

Sandusky was sentenced Tuesday to 30 to 60 years in prison.

Kaler said despite the controversy that surrounds some of the report, it’s important enough to consider its recommendations, compare current University practices and structures and discuss potential next steps.

He pointed out multiple lessons that can be learned from the Freeh report. He focused on the failure of leadership at high levels at Penn State, a culture that allowed athletics to exist outside University norms and an absence of administrative engagement, among others.

“In many dimensions — in enrollment, faculty size, research and operation budgets — we are not so different from Penn State,” Kaler said. “But I assure you we are in a very different place in our evolution as an institution.”

More than half of the recommendations made by the Freeh report are already in place at the University, Kaler said, with another third of the policies and procedures partially aligned.

There is no one-size-fits-all policy though, Kaler said.

“We need policies, processes, and governance structures that fit us. And I am confident that we have a system that would have detected and reported the Sandusky crimes early on.”