By Emily Sakamoto
After a blog post on Feministing.com this past Monday — which the Collegian’s blog arm The Thrill linked to — included Kenyon in a list of 20 schools that allegedly failed to comply with the Jeanne Clery Act of 1990, confusion arose as to whether or not Kenyon had fulfilled its federal requirement.
The Act requires colleges participating in federal financial aid programs to release information about the previous year’s campus crime by Oct. 1. In compliance with the Clery Act, Kenyon released its annual security report with statistics from the 2013 calendar year on Oct. 1. The report can be found on the Kenyon website and, according to Interim Title IX Coordinator Linda Smolak, Kenyon has not violated the Clery Act in any way.
Higher education institutions, in order to comply with the Clery Act, must report crime in three statistical categories: criminal offenses, hate crimes, and arrests and referrals for disciplinary action. Most commonly reported on Kenyon’s campus in 2013 were liquor law violations with a whopping 241 disciplinary referrals, compared to 233 in 2012.
The statistic that was attracted the most attention, however, is Kenyon’s report of zero cases of sexual misconduct in both the “forcible” and “non-forcible” categories. Confusion arose regarding these statistics because they appear to contradict numbers listed in Kenyon’s student handbook. The student handbook, which is available available online, notes all cases reported, including those reported confidentially, to Student Affairs during the 2013- 14 academic year: 18 cases of non-consensual sexual intercourse (three of which occurred in 2011-12), 13 cases of non-consensual sexual conduct (two of which occurred in 2011-12), three cases of sexual exploitation and five cases of sexual harassment. Kenyon is not required by law to report these numbers.
“We’re actively looking into the discrepancy,” Dean of Students Hank Toutain wrote in an email to the Collegian. “[It] may be related to different reporting periods, different incident definitions and the inclusion (or not) or confidential reports.”
The discrepancy between the number of sexual misconduct cases on campus as published in the Student Handbook and the numbers made public as part of the Clery Act is a direct result of the potentially confusing definitions that the Clery Act uses to describe what is required of higher education institutions on an even level for reporting the numbers, according to Smolak.
“The Clery Act has very specific definitions,” Smolak said. “And many of the incidents of sexual misconduct including non-consensual sexual intercourse that we have at Kenyon will not fall under those definitions.” Smolak took over as Kenyon’s Title IX coordinator in early October after the departure of Mariam El-Shamaa.
All employees of the College are considered mandatory reporters of incidents of sexual misconduct, and thus are required to report any incidents they are made aware of. All reports of sexual misconduct eventually lead to the office of the Title IX coordinator, no matter whether they were reported through faculty or the Office of Campus Safety. Reports made in the Counseling Center are confidential and thus are reported to the Title IX coordinator without a name attached; in 2013, 14 of the 18 reported cases were made anonymously.
Sexual Misconduct Advisors (SMAs) are also mandatory reporters, and process reports of sexual assault, both confidential and named. Olivia Grabar Sage ’15, who has been an SMA for two years, said that in her experience most complainants disclose their own name, but are more hesitant to record the name of the accused. Even if a name is attached to a form submitted through a SMA, those cases are filed as confidential through the Counseling Center and are not at liberty to be included in the Clery Act as no details of the situation are available.
Smolak explained that the numbers made public in the student handbook are intended for “transparency.”
“We are trying to convey the message that the College is not going to tolerate this,” Smolak said about the numbers being published in the handbook. “The students want to know we are going to be forthcoming about this.”
Despite Kenyon’s professed eagerness to abide by the rules of the Clery Act, one portion is still missing: the requirements imposed by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) of 2013, which mandate that colleges make a “good faith effort” to publish domestic violence, dating violence and stalking statistics from 2013 in their annual crime reports for 2014. The College failed to report those numbers in the Clery Act email sent out to all students and employees at the start of the month.
The student handbook, published online, lists one confidentially reported incident of dating violence for the 2013-2014 school year, but does not list any numbers for stalking or domestic violence. Issues remain regarding how colleges should report information from 2013 that, before VAWA took effect, they did not know they had to collect.
In a news bulletin emailed to the campus yesterday, the College stated that, “after initiating communication with the U.S. Department of Education this week, [it] will reexamine incident reports of sexual misconduct filed with the Campus Safety Office during calendar year 2013 and incident reports made to staff members in the Division of Student Affairs during the 2013-14 academic year in order to verify the accuracy of the annual security report.”
Both Smolak and Toutain, however, expressed confidence the College has not violated the Act. “In fact, it’s probable, as I understand it, that the numbers will be revised in the next few weeks,” Smolak said.
The bulletin, which included the 2013-14 sexual misconduct statistics published in the student handbook, also stated that the College will work with the Department of Education on “an assessment of College-wide reporting of sexual misconduct.”
Feministing.com alleged that colleges, such as Kenyon, that reported low numbers of sexual misconduct under the Clery Act did so because, at these colleges, “the process of reporting violence [is] so burdensome, confusing, or unknown that survivors don’t feel safe reporting at all.”
President Sean Decatur, however, pointed to the higher number of sexual misconduct statistics reported to Student Affairs as evidence of the College’s success in “encouraging survivors to come forward and making the process more transparent.” He also attributed survivors’ willingness to come forward to “a culture at Kenyon of increased dialogue about sexual misconduct.”
He expressed confusion as to why Safety’s numbers did not match the student handbook numbers, but said that he believes “the data collection methods are accurate.” The problem, according to Decatur lies in “communicating the numbers.”