College to release annual safety report today

by Annie Ma | 9/30/14 6:41pm

Amid ongoing federal investigations, the College plans to release its annual security and fire safety report today.

The Clery Act, signed in 1990, requires higher education institutions to report statistics and information regarding crime on and near campus by Oct. 1 of each year. The report also includes information on the College’s disciplinary procedures relating to sexual assault, student safety, building safety and response to crime.

The report comes as the College is facing a Title IX investigation of its climate surrounding sexual assault as well as one regarding compliance with the Clery Act. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights began examining the College’s compliance with Title IX in May 2013. The Clery Act investigation began in August 2014 following a complaint filed by Dartmouth students in May 2013.

Violating the Clery Act’s reporting mandates or failing to take corrective action can lead to federal sanctions that range in severity from fines to termination of federal financial aid programs.

S. Daniel Carter, director of the VTV Family Outreach Foundation’s 32 National Campus Safety Initiative, said that changes to the Clery Act taking effect on July 1, 2015, will affect the reporting of dating violence, domestic violence and stalking. The legislation was passed as part of the 2013 Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act.

Some institutions, however, may report this information in this year’s reports, as the statute takes effect this year, Carter said.

“Institutions are being asked to make a good-faith effort to comply with the new requirements to include reporting for calendar year 2013-14,” Carter said.

Following a 1999 change in legislation, institutions no longer have to disseminate paper copies to each student and employee, as long as they notify their campuses of the document’s release on the Internet.

Carter added that the change in methods of disseminating the Clery information can affect the campus climate.

“One of the problems with the law across the board is that [the report] falls into the norm of ‘it’s just another notification from the college or university,’” Carter said. “Many students unfortunately do not see the Clery Act reports until after they’ve been the victim of a crime.”

The College makes a daily crime log available to campus. Guillermo Rojas Hernandez’13 has attempted to raise awareness of this log through his website, CleryDart.info. The site visually represents Dartmouth’s daily crime log by pinpointing each reported incident on an interactive campus map.

“If someone says that a sexual assault happened on campus, that seems abstract,” he said. “But if you learn that a sexual assault happened on your residence hall, then it becomes more immediate. It makes it so that students are much more aware that these are things that can happen to them.”

Andrea Pino, a lead complainant in the Title IX complaint against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has worked with students nationwide to file complaints against their institutions.

She said that increased campus dialogue and the presence of an investigation can affect the trends observed in reporting.

“A lot of what we see, even a year after a complaint is filed and an investigation starts, is that reports jump drastically,” Pino said. “At many schools, they’ve gone up, somewhere between a dozen to two dozen. It definitely increases a lot of the conversation, and many students feel more empowered to report.”

Pino said that the presence of investigators on campus can kick-start conversations that make students think critically about their own encounters.

“Much of the problem is that students just don’t know if their experience constitutes sexual assault because there isn’t a prevalent conversation about it until there is some type of controversy,” Pino said. “It’s really because of that controversy and that ongoing conversation surrounding sexual assault that students, upon hearing that, are able to piece together that their experience constitutes sexual violence.”

Within the past five years, the number of federal investigations and complaints against institutions has increased. Brown University, Princeton University and Harvard University are under ongoing Title IX investigations, while Columbia University faces both Clery and Title IX complaints with no investigation yet announced. Title IX and Clery investigations of Yale University concluded in 2012 and 2011, respectively.

“Complaints like these combine student voices with a sort of large push,” Pino said. “They are a unifying factor, and bring the blame back to the university. Universities are now being held accountable to much higher scrutiny than they ever were before.”

In last year’s report, sex offenses rose from 15 in 2011 to 24 in 2012, and burglary reports increased by seven to 16.

Harvard and Dartmouth are the only two Ivy League institutions that did not release their annual reports by press time.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction appended (Oct. 1, 2014):

The initial version of this article misstated the name of Guillermo RojasHernandez '13.