With two reported sexual assaults on campus last semester, multiple student forums addressing the issue of campus sexual assault and the ICARE launch this semester, the USD community has come together to discuss solutions to preventing sexual assault on campus.
One way sexual assaults are measured on campus is the annual Clery Report, also known as the fire and safety report.
John Howe, associate dean of student services, said while the crime data from the Clery Report is what most students jump to, the report actually has more information to offer.
“Almost everyone thinks of the crime data that’s always reported in Clery, almost everyone goes immediately to the table,” he said. “But there is a wealth of information on the Clery Report beyond that.”
Howe said students and faculty can find abbreviated policy within the report. The South Dakota Board of Regents Human Rights Complaint Procedures 1.18 is one example of a policy that’s simplified for the report.
“(1.18) is a very long document. So if someone has gone through an experience of sexual assault, it’s a very long document to try to process and it’s not specific to USD,” Howe said. “The Clery Report does a really good job in about a page and a half, summarizing 1.18.”
The federal requirements for data in the Clery Report vary based on what seems to be a two year schedule, Howe said. With the frequency of changes, the Clery Center, a nonprofit, helps universities stay compliant with the federal law through webinars.
A disparity in numbers
Howe said while the Clery Report doesn’t account for every sexual assault on campus, it accounts for all the information that is reportable.
“It’s a good representation of the knowledge that we have,” he said.
Olivia Mann, a senior criminal justice and sociology double major, was vocal at sexual assault town halls last semester. Mann said while she understands the Clery Report is mandated by federal law, she thinks there are problems that need to be addressed.
“There is a law of limitations with the Clery report, and I think it becomes glaringly obvious when you just look at the numbers,” Mann said.
Mann said 11.2 percent of college students are victims of rape during their time in college, and that the Clery Report numbers don’t match up to that statistic.
“If you look at USD’s Clery Report for 2015 to 2016, the numbers showed that half a percent of our students dealt with sexual assault during that year,” she said. “So clearly there’s a massive disparity there.”
Cases reported in the Clery Report have to meet certain criteria dictated by the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities nationwide to publish their annual crime reports by Oct. 1.
For example, all crimes in the report have to take place on campus. Even if an off-campus sexual assault case is under Title IX investigation, it’s still not reportable on the Clery Report, Howe said.
Mann and Howe both agree this aspect of the Clery Report is limited in gathering accurate data.
“The number one limitation is just the location issue,” Mann said.
However, Mann said there are other issues with the focus of the report.
“The way the Clery Act is set up to emphasize reporting shifts the focus to where it doesn’t need to be,” she said. “Instead of focusing on prevention and education, the focus becomes on reporting and minimizing the report numbers.”
Mann said while the data in the report isn’t the most useful, the policy information could be a useful resource if students looked at the report.
“I think it could be a valuable resource if students looked at it,” she said. “The problem is how many students actually look at the Clery Report. Even myself, I only look at it when I’m doing research, and then I looked at it when I was trying to pick out colleges.”
Changing the focus of the sexual assault discussion to prevention would be more helpful, Mann said, and she thinks the launch of the ICARE program will be a large help.
“We need to really make sure that when it gets right down to it, giving our students every piece of information they could possibly need in as many ways as possible (is important),” she said. “Just because a report is out there doesn’t mean students are reading it. We need stuff that’s going to be in your face that’s going to be positive, and that would be attractive to students.”