What Comes Next: A Response to Public Safety Withholds 2015 Incident Reports

 

By: Atiya Irvin-Mitchell

In 1986 at Lehigh University a young woman named Jeanne Clery was raped and brutally murdered by a fellow student in her dorm room on a campus her parents say she adored. Jeanne Clery was the youngest of three children, she was a talented tennis player, she planned to study communications, and she never lived to be twenty.

Why is Jeanne Clery’s story important? In the aftermath upon discovering the university’s crime record and the negligence, they felt contributed to their daughter’s death her parents sued. The Clerys were ultimately awarded 2 million dollars, but that wasn’t enough.

They wanted more, they wanted campuses to be safer.

“Jeanne didn’t have a chance. She didn’t have a chance.” That’s what Connie Clery said about her daughter. Feeling that too many colleges cared more about money than the safety of their students the Clerys used the money awarded to found the Clery Center and lobbied for the Clery Act. As a result of this law every October universities both private and public are required to release a report of all crimes and incidents that took place on campus in the past three years.

When Chatham’s yearly report was released this fall, some students on campus were dubious of the numbers reported. So the Communique investigated. Despite a reporter asking for the 2015 records more than once this investigation only provided more questions than answers. Why doesn’t Public Safety know they were required to release the logbooks to any interested party within 48 hours? Why aren’t members of the Chatham administration clear on what crimes must be reported and what it takes to deem them unfounded?

This is deeply problematic and unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Chatham University has been criticized for its handling of such matters. Last Spring Chatham students expressed frustration with Public Safety’s delayed action in informing the student body about a number of sexual assaults that took place near the University of Pittsburgh’s campus. In October at the “We Are Steubenville,” theatrical performance during the audience participatory portion of the event several students texted in that they felt unsafe on Chatham’s campus and questioned how much the administration cared about victims of sexual violence.   

Parents and students look at Clery reports before choosing a university, they should never have reason to question the authenticity of the crime statistics. Jeanne Clery’s own parents said if they had known the true history of violence on Lehigh’s campus she would never have attended.  

Chatham can offer crime prevention classes. It can host Take Back The Night rallies. And pass out “It’s on Us,” stickers until there’s no tomorrow. But if the administration isn’t willing to follow through when it really matters all of this is lip service. And let’s be clear.  A bad date is being stood up. A bad date is spending hours with someone who won’t shut up about their ex. A bad date is something you’ll eventually be able to laugh about. Sexual assault, however, causes damage that can last for years. How can we deal with that damage while using outdated euphemisms and platitudes? So here are a few recommendations:

  1. Use the words: They’re ugly and awful because the crimes they describe are ugly and awful. Don’t downplay that.
  2. Release the logs: Seriously, the law says that you’re required to.
  3. Be transparent: In the absence of transparency, we can only assume the worst. See recommendations number two.

It would be pointless to speculate about the intentions of those involved without mindreading abilities and a time machine. But as the year has unfolded unfortunately it seems clear that many of those most responsible for enforcing the Clery Act on Chatham’s Campus lack a complete understanding of what is required of them. This is very dangerous. Chatham needs to do better. To do anything less would be a disgrace to Chatham University’s mission and Jeanne Clery’s memory.

For more information:https://clerycenter.org/policy-resources/

https://www2.ed.gov/admins/lead/safety/handbook.pdf

 

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