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Special committee releases findings in SU’s Bernie Fine investigation

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Special committee releases findings in SU’s Bernie Fine investigation
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A special committee formed by Syracuse University's Board of Trustees to review the adequacy of SU's response to Bobby Davis' 2005 claims of child molestation released a report Thursday. Erin Clarke has more.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The special committee concluded that the university's response to Bobby Davis' allegations was imperfect, despite the fact that they found the response to be prompt, appropriate and undertaken in good faith without any effort to cover up something.

The committee, comprised of three members, says some of the judgments made could have been better and possibly resulted in a different outcome.

The members point to a handful of weakness in the initial investigation that they say are highlighted so that the university can improve its process of investigating similar situations by learning lessons from how the Bernie Fine matter was handled.

The first: The university should have contacted law enforcement, however, the committee says responsibility for not doing so lies with university attorneys for not counseling SU to do so.

Second: The university's lawyers did not alert the chancellor to allegations that emerged during the investigation about Laurie Fine having sex with basketball players. This is information that the lawyers found irrelevant to the molestation issue.

Third: There were general weaknesses in the initial investigation and report, including allowing Bernie Fine to edit his witness statement to eliminate a suggestive fact about him sharing a hotel room with Bobby Davis without that being noted in the subsequent report.

Fourth: The chancellor should have told the Board of Trustees about Davis' claims and the conclusion reached by the university's attorneys.

Fifth: By focusing narrowly on whether Davis' claims were substantial, the university missed the opportunity to consider broader issues raised, like a need to ensure that allegations of serious criminal conduct are reported upon.

There is much more in this report, including the names of 21 people interviewed by the special committee. You can read the full report below.

Bobby Davis’ lawyer, Gloria Allred, released a statement following the release of the report saying that her team will issue a response on Monday.

SU Statement

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

Late last year, a Special Committee of our Board of Trustees retained an independent law firm to investigate the University’s procedures in handling the allegations that surfaced in 2005 against former Associate Head Men’s Basketball Coach Bernie Fine. Earlier today, the Special Committee released its report.

The report concluded that upon receiving the allegations in 2005 we acted in good faith and professionally in responding to and investigating them. The report cites certain things, with the benefit of hindsight, that should have been done better or differently. I supported the Special Committee’s review at the outset and support its recommendations now so that we can respond most effectively in the event we ever again become aware of allegations of sexual abuse. The report can be found on the University’s website, www.syr.edu.

In addition to the Special Committee’s review, a Joint Board of Trustees/SU Working Group on Policies Related to Sexual Conduct, Campus Culture, and Safety, has been working since December to undertake a comprehensive review and analysis of University policies in the areas of sexual harassment or abuse. This review has had a specific focus on areas of the University in which campus community members interact with minors. There are now new rules and policies regarding programs in which minors are involved, including new notification and reporting protocols for summer programs, and the Athletics Department has adopted policies about supervision of minors. New training programs will be instituted across broad areas of the University and the Working Group has established a schedule for periodic review of all relevant polices so that they continue to exemplify best practices in the field. The Working Group’s efforts are still underway and they expect to report on their work to the campus this fall. In addition, their work will be complemented by a committee created by the University Senate in February to examine University policies and practices in these areas.

Our goal remains fostering a safe and secure environment for all members of the University and the community. The most important things now are that we continue to learn from these events over the long-term and that anyone impacted by abuse or harassment is able to come forward in a supportive environment.

I will study and reflect further on the report I received today and will join all of you in discussing how to ensure that the important conversation generated by these events—in Syracuse and elsewhere—does not end. We can always do better, and it is my hope that our community can continue to come together, vastly wiser and stronger moving forward.

Sincerely,

Nancy Cantor

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