The UI is expanding safeguards to protect young people who visit its campuses - as well as employees and students - following a broad, 10-month review of policies that began in the wake of the sex-abuse cases at Pennsylvania State University.
The policies, developed by a universitywide task force and already being implemented, include:
- Mandatory reporting: Under a recent amendment to the Illinois Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act, all university employees will soon be required to report suspected cases of abuse and neglect to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and campus police, rather than only a select group of employees such as police officers, and day care and hospital workers. All employees will be required to complete an awareness program on their responsibilities under the new law, and then will receive an annual reminder of their obligation to report suspected abuse and neglect.
- Sexual harassment training: All employees and incoming students will be required to complete an educational program on preventing sexual harassment, misconduct and harassment, and employees will be required to repeat it at least every three years. Sexual harassment training had been required for all incoming students and employees in some campus departments, but there was no universitywide mandate.
- Background checks: All employees and prospective employees who have regular contact with minors will be required to undergo a criminal background and sex offender registry check. Previously, background checks were only required for security sensitive positions.
- Tracking of minors: Each campus will be required to maintain a record of all scheduled activities involving minors, such as youth camps and performances, with details including location, number and age range of participants, and contact information for authorities who will make arrangements for the safety of minors in the event of emergencies. Before the new policy, those events were monitored by departments and units, but not campuswide.
The policies were outlined at the UI Board of Trustees Governance, Personnel and Ethics Committee meeting on Oct. 25. The review of university policies was authorized by the Office of the President, with concurrence of the board of trustees. The new policies will be outlined for the board at its Nov. 8 meeting in Springfield, but formal action by trustees is not required.
Maureen Parks, the associate vice president for human resources, said the policies will heighten awareness and create a network of more than 100,000 faculty and staff members and students who will help ensure the safety of young people and others on the university's three campuses and associated facilities.
"The university has always had good safeguards, but these new policies take our efforts further - implementing the best practices that have emerged since the tragedies at Penn State," Parks said.