Friday, January 16, 2015

Ensuring a safe place to learn, live and work

As with any new year, changes come.

Bloomsburg University and all of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education remain committed to ensuring our campuses are safe places for learning, living and working. Recent laws passed by the Pennsylvania legislature and a policy passed by the Board of Governors further enhance that commitment in the following ways:

Protection of Minors on Campus

In a situation of suspected child abuse involving individuals under the age of 18, all university employees are considered “mandated reporters” and have or will receive training from Bloomsburg University regarding the reporting of suspected child abuse.

In the meantime, if there is a situation of suspected child abuse employees must immediately make an oral report to Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services (DHS)—formerly named the Department of Public Welfare —by calling 1-800-932-0313. If an oral report is made, a written report must be made within 48 hours to DHS or the Columbia County Children and Youth Services. Immediately following the report to DHS, employees must notify the Officer-In-Charge at the University Police Department —the designated person in charge here at Bloomsburg University who will assume responsibility for facilitating the institution’s cooperation with the investigation of the report.

Arrest and Conviction Disclosure

Related to the protection of minors on campus, all current employees will be required to report to the Bloomsburg University if they have been arrested or convicted of crimes enumerated in the Child Protective Services Law, 23 Pa.C.S. §6344(c).

Beginning Dec. 31, 2014, employees must contact our human resources office if they have been
  1. arrested for or convicted of a reportable offense or if you have been 
  2. founded or indicated as a perpetrator in a report of child abuse. 
Employees must provide such written notice within 72 hours of the arrest, conviction, or notification that you have been listed as a perpetrator in the statewide database. Failure to make a written notification as required by law could be a misdemeanor of the third degree and could subject employees to discipline up to and including termination.

Background Checks

All current and prospective employees and volunteers will be required to have the following background clearance checks:
  • A criminal history record check or statement from the Pennsylvania State Police indicating the individual has not been convicted of a reportable offense;
  • Certification from the Department of Human Services as to whether the individual is named in the Statewide Database as a perpetrator in a pending child abuse investigation, a founded report, or an indicated report of child abuse; and
  • A federal criminal history record information, including fingerprinting and review by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the purpose of verifying the identity of the individual and obtaining a current record of any criminal arrests and convictions.
These are the same background clearance checks that are routinely required of all K-12 teachers in Pennsylvania as well as others who have regular contact with minors, including those who volunteer with churches and other community organizations.

Employees may be asked to obtain the above background checks immediately if Bloomsburg University has reason to believe they were arrested or convicted of one of the crimes enumerated in the new law. Otherwise the timing of the checks will depend on whether they have ever had background certifications in the past in accordance with the following:
  • If you have had certifications and the certifications are more than 36 months old you will need to have new certifications by Dec. 31, 2015.
  • If your certifications are less than 36 months old, you will have to have new certifications within 36 months of the date of your last certifications.
  • If you have never had certifications, you will have to have them by December 31, 2017 and every three years thereafter.
The University will fully review the results of the background checks and act pursuant to both Board policy and the law. Details regarding the process for obtaining the certifications will be provided in a separate communication.

We appreciate everyone's continued commitment to keep our campus a safe and productive environment for learning and discovery. We look forward to 2015 as another remarkable year for our students, faculty, staff, and the community we serve.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Putting theory into practice

A phenomenon is occurring across our campus as the amount of undergraduate research grows each semester and each summer. Yes, I said undergraduate research. Traditionally research in higher education has been reserved for graduate studies, a staple for master thesis work and doctoral candidacy.

Here at Bloomsburg University, we’ve added a third component.

We take pride in the way we integrate out-of-classroom experiences into our undergraduate curriculum. Research and creative work provide students with a richer academic experience and allow them to hone the skills they will use in their professions.

In labs, studios, auditoriums and elsewhere, students are working at a professional level. In the sciences, for example, Kevin Ball, associate professor of psychology, has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the neurochemical aspects of addiction.

Working with students, Ball’s research may suggest ways to combat addiction. In the arts, the members of BU’s Jazz Ensemble have earned a place on a very public stage at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in the summer of 2015, an experience that combines performance with an opportunity for international travel.

These two successes and others like them are worth celebrating. The redesigned and expanded 2014 edition of Research and Creative Activities includes in-depth stories about projects, as well as a broad overview of the various activities — research and creative — students and faculty have undertaken in the past year.

The publication includes:
  • A story about biology professor John Hranitz’s research on bees and the ongoing threat of hive collapse.
  • A study of how high-fat diets may impair learning ability.
  • A project by a business professor and two students that could enable researchers to analyze data in medical records while maintaining patient privacy.
These successes and valuable research experiences carry our students to the next level. This is evident from a recent email we received from East Carolina University praising two of our alumni who are enrolled at its Brody School of Medicine. The program specifically mentioned how well Bloomsburg University prepared these doctoral students, both of whom have made such an impression that ECU is hoping to recruit more Huskies.