SOUTH BEND — In the wake of the Penn State scandal, University of Notre Dame President the Rev. John I. Jenkins recently sent an e-mail to students and employees reminding them of their obligation to report cases of suspected abuse and other questionable conduct.
In the Jan. 19 letter, Jenkins urged prompt and full reporting of such matters.
The priest wrote that he has given a great deal of thought to news stories about Penn State’s alleged failure to respond promptly to alleged cases of child abuse, and that the possibility of serious failures gives those at Notre Dame the chance to take steps to prevent transgressions here.
He also referred to the sexual abuse crisis that has rocked the Catholic Church in recent years. “In my reflection, I cannot but connect what is alleged to have occurred at Penn State with the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. Both involved the abuse of minors, and both seemed to include a failure by some to report behavior and by others in authority to respond appropriately,” he said.
At Penn State, legendary football coach Joe Paterno was fired Nov. 9 after child sex-abuse charges were filed against Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant coach.Paterno, diagnosed soon after with lung cancer, died Sunday.
Paterno said a graduate student assistant told him in 2002 that he had witnessed Sandusky abusing a boy in the football team’s shower facility, and that he reported the matter to his immediate supervisor.
His firing came amid public outcry that Paterno and other university employees should have done more to protect children.
Jenkins urged members of the campus community not to ignore or hide suspected cases of abuse out of a sense of loyalty to the institution.
“Loyalty that hides problematic conduct is a false loyalty, for it elevates reputation over reality, and esteems image over character. Though we may believe we are acting to protect the institution, in reality we do the institution and individuals far greater damage — even if the deceit is never discovered,” Jenkins wrote.
The letter provided a link to details about how to report suspected misconduct: http://president.nd.edu/communications/options-for-reporting-questionable-conduct-at-notre-dame.
Notre Dame’s procedures for handling such matters haven’t changed in recent months, campus spokesman Dennis Brown said. The letter was intended to remind students and employees of the proper course of action, he said.
Indiana law requires that inappropriate conduct concerning a minor be reported to police. In the case of an emergency or a crime in progress, police should be called right away, the university guidelines state.
If questionable conduct occurs on campus or involves Notre Dame students or employees, it must be reported to the university, Jenkins wrote.
Anyone aware of such conduct should report it to the university’s general counsel by calling 574-631-6411 or e-mailing: firstname.lastname@example.org. The general counsel’s office is responsible for making official reports on behalf of the university, he wrote.
Notre Dame’s complete policy for protection of children is available online at: http://hr.nd.edu/nd-faculty-staff/forms-policies/protection-of-children.
Anyone who witnesses inappropriate conduct also should consider discussing their concerns with a direct supervisor (for employees) or rector, hall staff or the Office of Student Affairs (for students), the policy states.
Notre Dame also offers an “Integrity Line” for those who want to report workplace concerns or prefer to report anonymously. The line is available 24 hours a day by phone at 800-688-9918 or on-line at http://hr.nd.edu/integrityline.
Read the letter
To read Jenkins’ full letter, see http://president.nd.edu/communications/letter-on-reporting-questionable-conduct