In May 2011, a flash drive allegedly containing child pornography belonging to then-University of Michigan Health System resident Stephen Jenson was discovered by a medical resident. The resident reported the alleged pornography to her supervisor, but UMHS officials, however, did not report this information to police for six months. After calling this inaction a “failure,” the University launched an internal investigation of the missteps and also hired an outside consulting firm to conduct an inquiry. The summary of the external investigation was released. If the University learned anything from the Penn State scandal, they should have released these findings in full to the public as quickly as possible. While this may be damaging to the University’s reputation in the short-term, it’s imperative that students and the University community have this information.
While most would like to think that the child abuse scandal at Penn State is an isolated incident, tragic discoveries like these are made somewhat frequently. Universities across the country, however, can learn from this situation by ensuring offenses are reported to the proper authorities as quickly as possible.
At the regents’ meeting on Friday, the board announced the completion of an external review of the UMHS’s delay in reporting Jenson’s alleged possession of child pornography. The board won’t release the full external report — prepared by the law firm Latham & Watkins, LLP — citing attorney-client privilege. University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said that the law firm suggested it was best not to immediately release the audit in full.
While the University’s refusal to release the external report is within their legal protections due to attorney-client privilege, the University has a responsibility to inform the people involved and those who live in the community of issues that directly affect them. Furthermore, the University can release portions of the report without breaching attorney-client privilege, drawing question to the legitimacy of their decision.
At Penn State, attorney and former FBI director Louis Freeh released the full results of an independent review immediately after its completion. If the details of the University’s delay in reporting Jenson’s offense are ostensibly less sordid than those of the Penn State case, there is no reason for the University to withhold the third-party review.
Jenson was in the pediatrics specialty program, which likely brought him into direct contact with children on a regular basis. The delay between the alleged discovery of child pornography on his flash drive and his prosecution is disturbing enough without the University’s subsequent delay in releasing pertinent details as to how the case was mishandled. Before inviting further suspicions, the University should ignore its attorney’s recommendation, follow the precedent set by Louis Freeh and release the external report immediately.