The University is initiating a policy that will protect non-student minors from inappropriate interactions with staff while participating in Duke programs.
Recent events concerning minors at other institutions—such as the Pennsylvania State University incident involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky—expedited the need for such a policy. But administrators began discussing the policies before then, Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh said. The policy, effective Sept. 1, requires any program involving minors to meet certain criteria, including required criminal background checks and training for all program staff, Cavanaugh said.
Duke has stated that it annually hosts between 8,000 and 9,000 minors in athletic camps, academic programs and other learning opportunities. The new policy does not apply to enrolled Duke students who are under the age of 18 or minors who are employed or serve as interns in laboratories under the direction of a faculty member.
“[The policy] has been in the works for a while—part of an evolution of regulatory good practice... and risk-management,” said Steve Nowicki, dean and vice provost of undergraduate education. “The Penn State case brought this into focus.”
Cavanaugh said it was coincidental that the new policy was announced soon after certain “high-profile” events. Representatives from multiple University programs were consulted during the formulation of the new policy, he added.
The policy requires that Duke program hosting minors be registered with Duke’s Corporate Risk Management office by Sept. 1. Additionally, the policy states that each program employee must take part in a criminal background check and complete a special training about how to recognize and prevent abuse.
University officials have begun to collaborate with some of the affected programs—like the Duke Talent Identification Program—to implement the policies.
Brian Cooper, director of educational innovation and outreach for TIP, said there were no significant operational changes to protect minors enrolled in TIP, adding that the program already conducts annual background checks on their employees. He noted, however, that program administrators will monitor the compliance and completion of the required training in a more formalized way than in previous years.
“What’s different about [this new policy] is that the University has made a concerted effort to bring people from across [campus] like programs such as TIP with various administrators to develop and consolidate a comprehensive policy,” he said.
The new policy ensures that everyone has a responsibility for safeguarding minors, Cavanaugh noted, adding that the policy clarifies what is expected if someone were to learn of an inappropriate incident and how to report it.
“The requirement is basic—if you see something, say something,” he added.
University officials are currently working on a policy solely focused on minors working in laboratories and anticipate its completion sometime in the Fall, Cavanaugh said.
The University currently does not require faculty members to go through criminal background checks, Provost Peter Lange noted. He said this is typical of Duke’s peer institutions.
“It’s unlikely to hire a faculty member a job at Duke without everybody knowing he or she is,” Nowicki said. “The probability of getting a faculty member who has somehow fraudulently represented themselves in elite academia is so low.”
Students under 18 and those employed on campus grounds are already protected by policies that apply to the entire student body, Lange said.
“In any policy, there are always gray areas. Good policy does its best to encompass where the real issues lie,” Nowicki said. “The University made sure it covered what it needed to cover.”