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/



Chatham police and students work to define their relationship

By: Teri Bradford

Campus police officers are an important part of the college experience and are on campuses across America and Chatham is no different. Chatham Police are here to work with the community to keep this learning environment safe and secure.

There has been talk in recent years, however, that there has been a lack of trust and interaction between the campus community and the officers in charge of protecting us.

“I believe that the connection between students and the [Chatham Police] is dwindling,” said sophomore student Asia Williams, who thinks the connection is lost when students don’t know who the officers are. “Last year we were introduced to the chief and the few officers on duty. This year, as the number of students grows, so does the number of new officers. It’s important for the students to feel safe and to be aware of exactly who is here to protect us.”

“I’m out on campus as much as I can to get to know students,” said Chief of Police Donald Aubrecht (affectionately known simply as ‘Chief’) at a Chatham Student Government meeting at the beginning of October.

He attended CSG to help get a conversation between students and Chatham Police started.

“I encourage officers to do that. We’re working on how to get all officers on all shifts to work on the same page,” he said.

Aubrecht discussed working with the Deans and ultimately with Resident Assistants and Graduate Resident Assistants, as well. RA’s and GRD’s are trained to reach out to Chatham Police in case of emergencies or risky activities that may happen within the dorm halls.

“If you know the officer you’re dealing with, and the officer knows you, [things work out better],” Aubrecht said.

Some students, however, think the relationship between students and Chatham Police is one that may just be misunderstood.

“Students would like a more open dialogue, but I also feel the importance in kind of having a separation between students and public safety officers so they can still be seen as authority figures,” said Alice Shy, a junior. “I want them to be seen as people who can protect me. I think people get the lines blurred. Students need to understand that the roles of public safety officers are not to drive them around but to protect them. If they’re picking them up, then they can’t take care of things here. If it came down to it, then they would have to weigh the options of what’s more important.”

Shy touches on one of the most talked about issues on campus: will Chatham Police pick up a stranded student in Pittsburgh?

Aubrecht makes his expectations clear on what Chatham Police will do for Chatham students.

“If you’re down on the South Side, and you’ve been drinking, we’ll come and get you,” said Aubrecht. He told CSG that this scenario includes students in unsafe situations such as missing the last [Port Authority] bus at night, stranding them. He identified the location Chatham Police will go to as Downtown Pittsburgh, Shadyside, South Side, Squirrel Hill, and Oakland. He also included students who need to use the Chatham shuttles to get to class or a hospital.

“If you miss the shuttle, and it’s 30 minutes to the next one, call us. We’ll get you there, and we’ll get you back. The shuttle doesn’t go to Mercy or Magee [Women’s Hospital of UPMC] but we will,” said Aubrecht.

Some students, however, say that this promise is too good to be true and that Chatham Police makes using them as a resource complicated. Sophomore Maya Carey had a negative experience in the past.

“I was over in the South Side when I was a wee little first year. We had gone to the hookah bar,” she said. “We weren’t even intoxicated; we were just stranded past 2 a.m. in the South Side. None of us knew how to use the bus system except we knew that the buses ended at 2 a.m.”

Carey and two friends — one of whom was an international student — weren’t sure how to get back to campus, and they were out of money, so they called Public Safety in hopes of getting a ride back to Chatham.

“They were so angry at us. They hung up on us once, I think,” she said. “They said they would get a supervisor, but they never did so we had to call back 20 minutes [later].”

By some measure of luck, Carey and her friends found a bus on its last run for the night, but it took them to an unfamiliar part of Oakland.

“Chatham Police reluctantly picked us up from [where the bus had dropped them off] and were chastising us the entire way back to campus,” Carey said.

“They were not happy to drive out to Oakland much less SouthSide at 3 in the morning, but I wasn’t happy about being stranded at 3 in the morning,” she continued. “People were drunk and throwing up [in the street]. I was scared, I had never been to Pittsburgh or lived in the city before.”

“There should be a consensus between all officers on what they can and can’t do. They should all be there at once to get that clear with students,” said Shy.

Aubrecht doesn’t dismiss these statements but said this is a result of how things were mishandled in the past by the man who had the position of Chief before him. He said that officers were not inviting to students and made things difficult for them. Aubrecht said he has worked hard to change this and all of the officers, new and returning, have come a long way, even from last year.

“I have talked to all of the officers about how important it is that students get back here safe and unharmed. [Some officers] were so used to how it used to be that it was hard for them to change,” he said about previous attitudes. “I really want to work to make sure [students] are safe; that’s my priority. If something like [Maya’s experience] happens, I want to know. When we don’t do well, I want to know so we can do better.”

Coordinator of Residence life, Kim Small agrees with Chief Aubrecht. She advises students to act if they feel there is an issue.

“I don’t think there is a disconnect [between students and Chatham Police] but, if students feel there is a problem, then they should bring the information forward,” said Small.

Though negative stories spread across campus quickly, some students have had positive experiences with Chatham Police.

Juliet Casinelli, a junior transfer student, has only recently interacted with Chatham Police for the first time after breaking her foot a few weeks ago.

“Breaking any bone most certainly makes you vulnerable, and you lose some of your independence. The Public Safety Officers here at Chatham helped me adjust to that so easily,” said Casinelli. “From helping me adjust my crutches to the correct length to giving me rides from the apartments to the main campus, they were always just a phone call away.”

In Casinelli’s experience, officers are always willing to help out.

“The few that I had interactions with were fabulous and really helped me out in my time of need. Our chief here at Chatham especially, he went out of his way to help me with parking and making this process as easy as possible,” she said. “Having officers on campus you can trust is an indescribable feeling. Though we may not reach out to them every day, knowing that we have the option to really makes being and living on campus a better experience.”

At the conclusion of the CSG meeting with Chief Aubrecht, students and Chatham Police both were open to start creating a positive relationship within the community.

Distant relationships: students and campus police

Everyone today has their own perception of the police, especially through the media’s representation of law enforcement officials. For some, when they think about police, they think about drugs, Michael Brown, or Eric Garner. Some people even think about biases that police have against certain groups.

However, the same is not true for Chatham University’s campus police. Many of the people that I have interviewed—varying in background, race, and gender—trust that the campus police do their jobs. But they do not support the distance between students and Chatham police.

“[One thing I would change about public safety] is [them] not sitting in their cars all the time,” said first-year Madison Mlinac, who is a criminal justice major and a member of Chatham’s first male basketball team.

I too agree with this statement. I see campus police riding around in their patrol cars or even sitting in their cars, and this time could be used to get to know the students and even the faculty. If their job is to protect, then why not get to know the people that they are protecting?

Asuka Kanazawa, a sophomore international student from Japan who is majoring in English, wishes to build relationships with the campus police.  

“I want to communicate with them,” she said. “It’s important, especially being [an] international student.”

Safety should definitely be a major factor for international students such as Kanazawa. These students are miles away from their homes, and Chatham and the United States and its culture are unfamiliar to them.

What we have to do is admit that there is a distance between students and campus police and try to find ways to bridge the gap between them.

In a previous meeting with the Chatham Student Government, Donald Aubrecht, Chief of Chatham’s Campus Police of four years, said, “All of the officers try to attend the sporting events, Easter egg hunts, [and other events] so that students can get to know the officers.”

This is a great way for campus police to get to know students because it lets the students know that there is a support system out there beyond their friends and peers; and also, campus police aren’t just there when something goes wrong.

I encourage all students to take advantage of campus police and get to know them especially since Chatham is a small campus. Although my mother works on campus, I still try to build relationships with other officers.

Every student I asked said that they knew Chatham’s police officers by face, but not by name. When I was in high school, this is how it started my freshman year. There were four security guards, and I didn’t get to know them until late in my sophomore year.

I ended up meeting them when I ended my friendship with a close friend at the time, which I hate to admit, because it should never take something bad happening to take advantage of the resources around you. We as students should feel obligated to have relationships with public safety because, in the end, when we need them the most, they will be there at our rescue.