Franciscan University takes matters involving sexual assault or abuse very seriously. When we learned through a recent news article of allegations that the University may not have handled sexual assault cases with the type of respect, precision, and standards they deserve, we acted immediately. The University engaged Jackson Lewis P.C., a national firm with expertise in investigating sexual misconduct, abuse, and violence, to review the cases in question and to advise us about whether the University handled them appropriately.
After a comprehensive review, Jackson Lewis determined that all personnel involved in these reported matters had complied with the University’s Policy on Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct, which sets forth robust investigation and response protocols that are consistent with federal law and our Catholic and Franciscan identity.
Two of the matters incorrectly identified in the recent media report as closed are, in fact, ongoing, and the University’s process has not been completed. Franciscan University is sensitive to the concerns raised, and in the spirit of fairness and compassion and to avoid a conflict of interest, we have reassigned the active cases mentioned in the news report. In the matters that are closed, Jackson Lewis found no evidence to support the allegations made against University personnel in the article.
Regarding the outcome of the review, President Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR, who recently apologized publicly to victims of sexual violence on behalf of the Catholic Church and Franciscan University, said, “At Franciscan University, ensuring student safety is a top priority, and we strive to give each victim the care, compassion, and respect for confidentiality they deserve.When we first learned in a news report about concerns and criticism of the University’s handling of sexual assault cases, we immediately turned to an outside firm to review the matter. Franciscan University remains steadfast in our commitment to prevent sexual misconduct and handle any cases that do occur with professionalism and charity.”
In accordance with policy, Franciscan University encourages victims of sexual assault to come forward and make a report to the University. We also recommend that victims report to local law enforcement. This recommendation is explicit in our policy, which outlines a range of options for contacting law enforcement. The University assists victims in making law enforcement reports when they are ready. When a report is made to law enforcement, we cooperate to the extent permitted by law.
To facilitate cooperation with law enforcement, in 2015, the University and Steubenville Police Department entered into a Memorandum of Understanding, agreeing that:
- Sexual violence reported to the University will be handled in a manner consistent with the alleged victim’s wishes unless otherwise required to be reported by law.
- In the event that the alleged victim wishes to pursue criminal charges, the University agrees to assist in making contact with law enforcement.
- The University and law enforcement will coordinate to ensure an appropriate and responsible investigation into reported incidents of sexual violence offenses.
Apart from conducting our own investigation and encouraging victims to report to police, the University offers support to victims, including medical, counseling, and pastoral services, as well as academic and housing accommodations. These support services are provided on an optional basis and are never mandated. These services, and other options for victims, are outlined in our policy, which is provided to persons who report sexual misconduct.
The University also strives to protect the privacy of all parties in sexual misconduct cases, as required by federal law, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
Anyone who experienced or is aware of sexual misconduct at Franciscan University is encouraged to make a report to the University or the Steubenville Police Department (740-282-5353). Anonymous reports may be made to the University through EthicsPoint (EthicsPoint.comor 844-521-7816). To speak to someone at Franciscan directly, contact the Title IX Office (HR@franciscan.edu; 740-283-6238).
Franciscan University of Steubenville exists to educate, to evangelize, and to send forth joyful disciples of Jesus Christ. Thus, Franciscan University is committed to a Christ-centered campus environment that flows from our Catholic mission and helps every student succeed in his or her spiritual, moral, and intellectual life.
For further information on Franciscan University’s response to allegations of sexual misconduct, please visit our Integrity and Truth website.