The first problem is to determine how to gather the necessary data.
As the No. 6 Terriers prepared for their Hockey East quarterfinal matchup with New Hampshire on Friday, the task force Boston University president Robert A. Brown formed to investigate the “culture and climate” of the men’s hockey team in the wake of two separate allegations of sexual assault against Terriers players was preparing to undertake that charge.
On Wednesday, Brown announced the membership of the task force, which will be co-chaired by university trustee Jonathan Cole and university provost Jean Morrison.
“We want and expect to develop a series of recommendations for actions, based on what we learn during the course of our assessment, that are necessary to ensure that all members of the BU community, including men’s ice hockey members, are upholding the high standards that the university sets for all its members,” Morrison said in a phone interview Thursday.
In an open letter to the BU community, Brown outlined the charge he’s made to the task force. The task force should consider:
* Academic quality. “How does the academic engagement and performance of hockey players compare with that of other students and student-athletes?” Brown asked.
* Student life issues. “How does their engagement and conduct, individually and collectively as well as on and off campus, compare with that of average students and student-athletes?” he asked.
* Team disciplinary history. “Does that history differ from the norm for other undergraduate students and student-athletes in our community?” he asked.
Morrison said much of the data necessary to evaluate those issues is available within the university. But when it comes to the larger issue of the culture of the team and its interactions with the university at large, the task force will need to gather information directly from those involved: students, faculty and staff.
“The tough thing is a lot of people are going to want to provide input, and we’re going to have to find a way that’s manageable,” Morrison said.
To that end, the task force is considering building a website through which individuals can provide information on their interactions with hockey players.
But that method raises its own questions. For example, would those providing information be required to identify themselves so that the data they contribute can be verified?
“That’s an excellent question and one of the first things we’re going to have to grapple with,” Morrison said. “When information is gathered from an attributed source, from a person who signs their name, we’re able to act on that information in more substantive ways than if it’s anonymous. We have a duty to ensure that the information that we are using to draw conclusions from is accurate.
“There’s a difference between attributed and unattributed information. Not to say we ignore unattributed information, but information that is attributed is much more readily interpretable.”
The task force will consist of 16 members, including university trustees, deans, professors and other administrators.
“The expertise and experience that the task force members bring is really extraordinary,” she said. “And it’s expertise that is with issues that we’re going to be discussing.”
Though the task force’s first meeting has not yet been scheduled, Morrison said she hopes it will occur immediately following the university’s spring break, which begins next week.
Brown has asked that the task force submit its findings this summer, so that any action necessary can be taken in time for the fall semester.
“Through your efforts,” Brown wrote in his letter to the task force members, “we will take whatever steps are necessary to restore the community’s confidence in our men’s ice hockey program and to ensure that the standards we set for our students in conduct and academic performance are consistent with our mission, core purposes and aspirations, and that those stands are consistently applied.”
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.