Public Safety’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, which was released Sept. 30 in accordance with the Jeanne Clery Act, reported that six forcible sexual offenses occurred on campus last year.
But this number does not tell the full story.
Not even close.
The Clery Report itself is problematic. For an incident to be included in the report’s annual numbers, it has to fit a criteria that does not even include the kinds of situations where sexual assault is truly prevalent (like house parties).
For a sexual assault case to be included in the report, it has to fall under the Clery Act definition of a sexual offense, happen within the Clery Act’s set geographical boundaries for Chapman and be reported in a “timely manner” (before next the Annual Security Report is released).
The Clery boundaries for Chapman essentially form a one-mile radius around campus. This greatly limits the effectiveness of the law. For example, if a student was sexually assaulted while walking along the shortest path from the dorms to the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, the assault would not be within the Clery Act report’s geography.
Due to that, it doesn’t even come close to accurately summarizing the state of sexual assault as it pertains to universities.
The Clery Act was passed in 1990 to provide campus crime data, implement stronger resources for survivors of sexual assault and set national standards for universities to properly inform students of incidents in a timely manner.
But it’s not 1990 anymore, and sexual assault and our societal understanding of the issue have progressed to the point where some of the Clery Report’s approach is obsolete. The culture has changed. There are situations that exist today that a law written in the 1990s cannot properly legislate.
One huge flaw that damages universities’ reporting processes is that over-reporting is actually punished.
As reported in our Clery Act report news story, if the university reports an incident that doesn’t adhere to Clery jurisdiction, it can actually be subjected to fines, according to Public Safety Captain Craig Lee. This only hamstrings universities and slows up the reporting process, as it is another thing that university officials have to worry about when dealing with the logistical side of things.
Another part of the irony of the Clery Act report is that it’s 97 pages long. Realistically, what college student is going to sit down and actually read 97 pages of dense, legal language? While reporting should be as thorough as possible, the presentation needs to be streamlined into a form that is as accessible and comprehensive as possible in order to effectively educate the public.
So not only is the information within the report limited due to the constraints surrounding what kind of incidents get included, but it’s also not presented in a way that is most beneficial to its intended audience.
It is difficult for people to place value in the Clery Act report’s numbers for sexual assault because they know that the statistics do not hold the truth of the situation. Even school administrators know about how the Clery Act report fails to show the entire picture.
“It’s a specific category and a specific geography,” Dean of Students Jerry Price said. “For example, there are instances in which we have to get involved under Title IX but they happened in locations that aren’t in the Clery geography so they’re not included in the stats.”
In response to the limited and unclear nature of the reporting setup, the university has discussed creating its own independent report on Chapman-related sexual assaults that would pull from a wider range of data and cases. We would fully support this move.
Because what is the point of even having a report if no one places value in it? Worse than this, publishing numbers that don’t represent the reality of the epidemic of sexual assault puts forth a false sense of security and is misleading when looking at the scope of the problem.