“Physical and sexual abuse is a serious crime. Abuse of any kind is counter to God’s call and the teachings of Christ. Franciscan University strives to provide a learning and living environment free from all forms of sexual violence,” said Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR, president of Franciscan University of Steubenville. “Respect for and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and guests are a top priority of this University. The steps we announce today provide immediate and appropriate support in any matters involving sexual misconduct and are enhancements to our Integrity and Truth efforts, which we launched last year to ensure that any matters involving sexual abuse are reported and handled swiftly and appropriately.”
During a homily before the students, faculty, and staff at the August 2018 Opening of the Semester Mass, Father Sheridan apologized to all victims of sexual violence, especially anyone who may have been subjected to abuse by any member of the Franciscan University family.
At that time, he initiated, with the support of the Board of Trustees, an outside review of records pertaining to past allegations of abuse. Husch Blackwell LLP, a firm specializing in Title IX compliance and sexual abuse and violence, reviewed records pertaining to past allegations of abuse. On January 26, 2019, Husch Blackwell provided the Board of Trustees with its report of their findings after reviewing University files.
“The Board of Trustees has initiated a process to review the Husch Blackwell report in detail, including a determination of what information may be released publicly, consistent with the privacy interests of victims and students,” said Father Malachi Van Tassell, TOR, chair of the Board of Trustees of Franciscan University of Steubenville. “The board anticipates releasing additional information about the report prior to its next meeting in April 2019.”
Today, Father Sheridan, with the support of the Board of Trustees, announced the creation of a Student Advocate Office to support complainants and respondents in sexual misconduct investigations and the allocation of additional resources to augment the University’s investigation capacity.
Sexual misconduct has no place at Franciscan University and strikes against the core of the University’s Catholic and Franciscan values. All forms of sexual misconduct are expressly prohibited by the University’s Policy on Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct, which sets forth a clear process for investigating and resolving reports of sexual misconduct, requires training on sexual misconduct for students, faculty, and staff, and designates the Title IX/EEO coordinator and numerous deputy Title IX coordinators as resources for the University community.
Father Sheridan, the Board of Trustees, and the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus pledge themselves to ongoing efforts to provide a safe and positive campus environment for all students, faculty, staff, and guests at the University.
Today’s actions further the efforts the University has already implemented to provide a safe campus environment. In 2014, the University adopted its Policy on Discrimination, Harassment and Sexual Misconduct, demonstrating its firm commitment to prohibit all forms of sexual misconduct and to promptly investigate and respond to reports. Since adoption of the policy, the University has created mandatory sexual misconduct prevention training for all students and all employees; created the full-time position of director of Campus Safety/Title IX Coordinator; entered into agreements to improve collaboration with local law enforcement and victim advocacy groups; and made other efforts to maintain the physical safety of campus. As human persons with an inherent dignity conferred by God, all members of our community have the right to work, study, and live in an environment free from sexual misconduct. The University is firmly committed to protecting that right both now, and in the future.
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.com or 844-521-7816). To speak to someone at the University directly, contact the Title IX/EEO Office (HR@franciscan.edu; 740-283-6238).