A new policy for the fall semester has been implemented into the Penn State community that may have an impact on the largest student-run philanthropy in the world –– THON.
An administrative policy, AD-72 Reporting Suspected Child Abuse, provides education to university employees and officials regarding mandated reporting requirements, according to the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law.
According to a press release on Penn State Live, these, other new policies and adjustments to existing policies — such as AD-39, the administrative policy regarding minors on campus — are part of a focused effort by the university to become an academic and research leader nationwide in the protection of children.
The policy states that all university employees must complete reporter training annually through the Office of Human Resources' Center for Workplace Learning and Performance, and that refusal or lack of the training will resolve in disciplinary action. Training was initially conducted in April and will continue to be enacted throughout the university.
However, the policy and the training hold several uncertainties for the Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon and its officials as the speculation over whether or not THON volunteers and those associated will need to undergo the specific training.
Damon Sims, Vice President of Student Affairs, said that THON advisor Barry Bram developed a “draft protocol” that will manage the policy’s obligations. This includes background checks and training for THON’s leaders.
Bram’s policy also includes guidelines for those affiliated with specific programs that interact with children under the absence of a child’s parents.
“Given the hundreds of THON participants, it would seem impractical to do background checks and conduct the required training for all involved,” Sims said.
Although university officials such as Sims and Bram are on their way to developing a plan for undergoing such training, if evidently needed, the THON officials are still uncertain of the outcome of the situation altogether.
“At this moment, THON is working with the university to create a policy that will be beneficial to the safety of the Four Diamonds families and our volunteers," THON Overall Chairperson Will Martin (senior-communication science and disorders) said. “This policy will be in relation to AD-72. THON will release our decision on this policy in the near future once finalized.”
Even though there is an uncertainty as to what this new mandated training holds for THON, Overall Public Relations Chairperson Cat Powers emphasizes that it will be in line with Penn State’s standards.
“We are still figuring out everything at this time,” Powers (senior-public relations) said. “No matter what happens, we will make sure we are in conjunction with Penn State as much as possible.”
As THON and university officials continue to implement the policy into THON and its debatable regulations, it is safe to say that for now, the parents of children will not require such background checks and training.
“A final determination about the impact of AD-39 on THON’s activities has yet to be determined. Fortunately, most events that involve interaction between THON students and children also include those children’s parents,” Sims said. “For those events, background checks and training are not required.”