Morson's article detailed several alleged stories of mishandled sexual assault or harassment incidents at Franciscan on an alumni Facebook page.
According to the Reporter, Annie, a Franciscan alumna whose name had been changed, shared in the Facebook group that when she was raped in the spring of 2007, she was encouraged by a priest at Franciscan to seek counseling, but not encouraged to contact the authorities.
Another student, Jennifer, claimed that in 2008, Franciscan's then-Director of Student Life, Catherine Heck violated her privacy by forcing her to call her parents after an incident of sexual assault, and by sharing the story with other RAs at the time.
Another student, Margaret, claimed a mishandling of a 2005 sexual assault incident.
"I had to tell my story several times to different faculty members and a review board made up entirely of men," Margaret said. "They asked me why I was drinking in the first place, what my dress looked like, and if I had any other encounters with [the male student] before this happened."
According to Margaret, the review board took no action against the male student after they believed there was no proof that the incident was not consensual.
The Reporter also discussed a current graduate student, identified as Mary, who said she and other women were harassed by "a man in their department," and filed a complaint with the university. They said they were not interviewed about their allegations, but were subsuently notified that the university had concluded there was no "reasonable cause to believe" the man had violated misconduct policies.
Franciscan officials told CNA that in order to protect the privacy of those involved, it could not speak about specific cases in the past or present involving sexual abuse.
"We can say that if a case involves criminal actions, we strictly follow our policy and encourage students to report alleged criminal sexual misconduct to law enforcement agencies," Brenan Pergi, vice president of Human Resources and deputy Title IX/EEO coordinator, told CNA.
Since 2011, Franciscan has also reviewed and improved existing policies and procedures in reporting sexual misconduct, John Pizzuti, Franciscan's Title IX/EEO coordinator and director of Campus Safety and Compliance, told Franciscan Magazine. The school has also established Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) with the Steubenville Police Department and sexual victims advocate group Alive Inc., outlining the terms and details of handling cases of sexual misconduct.
"In total, since 2011, almost two dozen new programs, designed to ensure the safety of all students, have gone into effect at Franciscan. Key staff members have received comprehensive training in helping victims of sexual misconduct. And the entire process of reviewing complaints - from reporting to adjudicating and appealing decisions-has been strengthened and clarified," Emily Stimpson Chapman wrote in Franciscan Magazine.
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Some sources in the Reporter article also claimed that the emphasis in Title IX training at Franciscan was Church teaching on sexuality and the prevention of being in situations that could lead to sexual assault, rather than on reporting incidents.
"Everything at (Franciscan University) is talked about with a religious lens. Even the way they discuss sexual assault and harassment focuses on what the church teaches on premarital sex, modesty and avoiding situations that lead to sexual assault, as opposed to taking the report for what it is," said Marisa Bortz, who worked as a sexual assault advocate and prevention educator for ALIVE, Inc., in the same county as Franciscan.
Catherine Heck, assistant vice president of Student Life and deputy Title IX/EEO coordinator, noted that "FUS encourages both prevention and reporting. Like most colleges and universities we work hard to prevent the tragedy of sexual misconduct from occurring in the first place. Equally important is our immediate support and action if a complaint is made. If we receive a report of sexual misconduct, we investigate and resolve the complaint in a timely manner."
"All University employees (with the exception of counselors and certain pastoral staff) are obligated to promptly report actual or suspected discrimination, harassment, or sexual misconduct to our Title IX coordinator or deputy," Pergi added. "Franciscan University encourages students and staff members to immediately report any and all cases of sexual misconduct. When a report is made, the University seeks to provide ongoing support to the student or staff member making the report."
Furthermore, Franciscan officials said that their policies reflect the Catholic culture and identity of the school, when it comes to such topics as the Title IX issue of "consent."
"We carefully and thoroughly describe the concept of 'consent' for students and emphasize that non-consensual sexual activity is a violation of our policy and an attack on human dignity," Heck said. "We also make it clear that all sexual contact outside of the covenant of marriage is inconsistent with Catholic teaching and the University's expectations for our students - consent is certainly necessary, but it is not sufficient."