Task Force Completes Review of GW’s Culture, Policies and Practices

Implementation of recommendations issued by university-wide task force is underway.

freeh report
November 08, 2013

President Steven Knapp has accepted recommendations from a university task force that completed an extensive review of GW’s culture, policies and practices. The proactive and voluntary review was inspired by the Freeh report on Pennsylvania State University and evaluated GW against the recommendations contained in that report. Released in 2012, the Freeh report detailed widespread weaknesses in leadership, compliance, governance and culture at Penn State. The George Washington University’s review, by contrast, found that the university is already meeting or exceeding many of the recommendations of the Freeh report and identified opportunities for further improvement.

“I thank the task force for a superb effort,” said Dr. Knapp. “The findings show that GW already has in place sound policies and procedures that address the vast majority of the issues documented in the Freeh report. But there are always lessons to be learned from the experiences of other institutions. I am therefore asking that the recommendations of the task force be considered and, if appropriate, implemented as soon as possible.”

After the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting, Dr. Knapp convened a task force to examine the university’s public safety, which resulted in changes to security procedures and structures.

In summer 2012 following the release of the Freeh report, Dr. Knapp tasked a group of senior GW administrators with leading a review of the university’s policies, culture and practices. The deans were asked to look at recommendations in the Freeh report on culture and develop a work plan.  The steering committee then asked that a task force – chaired by Toni Marsh, associate dean for new initiatives and associate professor of paralegal studies in the College of Professional Studies, and Doug Shaw, associate dean for planning, research and external relations and assistant professor of international affairs – work with staff and students to examine the following areas of focus: culture, administration and general counsel, compliance, athletics, Board of Trustees, university police department, programs for minors and access to facilities, monitoring change and measuring improvement, research integrity and compliance, and student rights and responsibilities.

Among the task force’s recommendations are implementing background checks for new faculty members; developing a policy regarding the protection of minors; and Clery Act training for campus security authorities and athletics personnel.

Many recommendations issued by the task force, including adopting a university-wide policy to protect minors on campus, have been implemented. The remaining recommendations are in progress or under review.  The dean’s work will be ongoing this academic year with a focus on university processes and culture and communications.

“The task force provided a valuable opportunity to examine the university’s practices and topics raised by the Freeh report,” said Dr. Shaw, who presented on the task force findings at the Faculty Senate on Friday.

“The process was heartening—both in what we learned and the amount of cooperation we received across the university,” said Ms. Marsh. “We found overwhelming evidence of civility and transparency. The GW community has a tremendous amount of pride in its culture.”

View the list of recommendations here and the review report here.