Reporting sexual assaults
I have been saddened by the deeply disturbing reports from Penn State University in recent weeks, and all of us are understandably upset by the horrific allegations of sexual abuse of children by a trusted adult. The repeated accusations of personal and institutional failures to halt the abuse should make all of us in higher education stop and think about our actions if confronted by similar circumstances.
I write to remind you, emphatically, that any University of Minnesota employee who witnesses a sexual assault on campus, or a sexual assault involving our employees on or off campus, is expected to report the assault to law enforcement immediately. We have high-quality police departments on three of our University campuses--in the Twin Cities, Duluth, and Morris; our other two campuses have city and county law enforcement available to them. When you see a crime, report it.
You should know that I will not tolerate retaliation against anyone who makes such a report in good faith. It should go without saying that no University program or official is more important than the safety of individuals on our campuses, especially children. The University will support any employee who reports a suspected crime in good faith, no matter how powerful any opposing forces might appear to be.
University employees also must understand that many of us are required by Minnesota law to report crimes against children to law enforcement or social services authorities. Under Minnesota's mandatory reporting law, those reports must be made when we know or have reason to believe that a child is a victim of sexual assault, physical abuse, or neglect. Reporting to a University supervisor is not enough. Details about these legal reporting obligations are available from the Office of the General Counsel (email: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone: 612-624-4100). But beyond these legal requirements, it must be understood that at the University of Minnesota, we expect all University employees will report crimes against children directly to law enforcement.
None of us think that we would ever fail to report knowledge about child sexual abuse, but bright lines sometimes become dim when facts are unclear, countervailing influence is strong, or it just seems impossible to believe. Sadly, the lesson imparted by these events is that it is necessary to act, to report in good faith, and to let law enforcement authorities handle allegations of criminal activity.