By Emily Harris
The Clery Act has been maintaining transparency in crime reporting on college campuses since 1991. With the addition of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013, crime reporting now shows a more complete picture of campus crime.
According to the Clery Center, the law that went into effect in 1991 required access to a public crime log, an annual security report, timely warnings about immediate or ongoing threats, and ensuring basic rights for victims of sexual assault and other sex offenses. The Department of Education enforces the law and receives the annual security report published Oct. 1 every year.
Washington College’s Director of Public Safety Jerry Roderick said that the addition of the Violence Against Women Act doesn’t change how existing categories in the annual report are reported.
“It didn’t change anything that’s existing except for [it] added to hate crime categories,” said Operations Coordinator Susan Golinski. “We also have additional policy statements that we have to put in the annual security report. That is up to 105 policy statements now that have to be in there and that’s up from 63, it’s a big jump.” Golinski said the document is now approximately 70 pages long.
In addition to the hate crime category expansion, categories for domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking were added to the report. Before these categories were added, students could still report incidents to Public Safety and they would appear in the public crime log, but they would not be included in the annual security report.
“There’s a lot of categories of incidents that occur that don’t make that document. Vandalism, malicious destruction of property, those don’t go in there. Theft doesn’t go in there,” said Roderick.
Golinski said it was important to highlight the types of crimes added in 2013 to increase awareness on campus. “If you see that people on campus are reporting it [that] might be the thing that encourages you to go forward. If it makes you come forward that’s a good thing,” she said. “It also puts a spotlight on these types of incidents on campus, it gets people talking about them, [and] you’re going to see more programing around them. That’s to the benefit of everybody.”
“I think the response is going to be varied depending on how people are looking at it,” Roderick said. “Campus safety and security is a very near and dear concern to parents that are sending their sons and daughters to a campus and they want to know if this is going to be a safe place for them.”
All of the additions to the Clery Act are reflected in WC’s 2013 annual security report, but there are still ongoing changes in terms of sharing emergency notifications and timely notices with the campus. Roderick said, “We just have received information updating us on the fact that even if we’ve identified the accused that we still have to send out information. We didn’t have that interpretation up until recently. If we had somebody identified and we were processing a complaint we never sent those out before.”
Essentially students will now receive an email notification about a sexual assault or similar offense even if an individual has been identified and the case is being resolved. Roderick said the statements released in these situations will be generic to protect the identities of the individuals involved.
“More like safety tips, things that you could do, resources that are available, it would be sort of an informational thing at that point because we can’t give too much information,” said Golinski. “If we didn’t know the identity of the person it would be a different story, we would give you as much as we could.”
These additional categories in the report and how Public Safety deals with them begin to enter the territory of Title IX complaints, which have received a lot of media attention recently. Roderick said that the schools and universities that receive negative attention are those that attempt to sweep things under the rug or don’t handle the cases correctly.
“One of the things of Title IX is that the burden of proof is dramatically reduced to just a preponderance of evidence which means [if] 51 percent of the information points to the accused, [they’re] guilty… where schools have been getting in trouble is they’ve raised it from preponderance of evidence to clear and convincing evidence,” said Roderick. “It’s in everybody’s best interest to make sure we’re doing it right.”