In the wake of the recent appalling Penn State University child sexual assault allegations, the national leaders of the National Organization for Women join Pennsylvania NOW in calling on the school to expand the composition and goals of the committee tasked with investigating these allegations. The committee, appointed by the board on Friday, is made up of Board of Trustee members, along with faculty, students and alumni from the university. If a thorough and effective investigation is to take place, the panel should include members from outside of the Penn State community, specifically experts and survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence against both children and adults.
For nearly two decades, state and local NOW chapters in Pennsylvania have challenged Penn State’s dismissive attitude toward violence against women. One incident involved two wrestlers who were arrested in 2002 for the rape of a female student. After the incident occurred and was reported to police, the two were allowed to continue at the university on their full wrestling scholarships. In 2006, Pennsylvania NOW called on football coach Joe Paterno to resign after he made light of sexual assault allegations against a Florida State football player.
Consequently, NOW is urging the committee to broaden its investigation to include all forms of campus violence, which should include but not be limited to — sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. The panel should review policies and reporting methods across the board at Penn State and specifically within the Athletic Department.
Pennsylvania NOW has submitted a letter to the heads of PSU’s Special Investigation Committee addressing the aforementioned proposals, which we believe will promote safety and, ultimately, educational achievement at the university. We call on the board, the review committee and school officials to take these suggestions seriously and begin enforcing the school’s 2006 zero-tolerance policy that condemns all forms of campus violence.