By Madeleine Thompson
Yesterday, the College released a revised version of the Clery Act statistics on campus crime, which most higher education institutions are required by federal law to report for each calendar year on Oct. 1 of the following year. The reassessment was a response to allegations last week by Feministing.com, accusing Kenyon of non-compliance due to its failure to report statistics related to dating violence, stalking and domestic violence mandated by the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Though it appears that Kenyon was and remains in compliance with the Clery Act, the updated numbers posted on their website reflect some significant changes.
Originally, Kenyon reported zero incidents of sexual misconduct in any category, either forcible or nonforcible. Now, they have reported three counts of forcible sexual misconduct in residential facilities and five counts in a non-campus building or property. Reports of non-forcible sexual misconduct remain at zero. “We went back and did a comprehensive review of all of our data,” Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman said. “There were items that we found that either were miscategorized in the system or had not been translated from [the] Student Affairs data to incident reports.”
Though the statistics required by the Clery Act cover acts from hate crimes to arson, most of the confusion last week arose from the discrepancies between the initial reports of zero sex offenses in the Clery Act and the much higher numbers reported by Student Affairs in the Student Handbook. The handbook numbers counted 13 incidents of non-consensual sexual conduct, 18 of non-consensual sexual intercourse and five of sexual harassment, among others. “Clery is a narrower band of [definitions],” Dean of Students Hank Toutain said, who specified that the numbers reported in the handbook are not legally mandated. “I think what people noticed, and what was accurate, was that we had not adequately captured all the incidents that we should be reporting for Clery.”
The Clery statistics also now include the good faith statistics for 2013: two incidents of dating violence on campus, zero incidents of domestic violence and eight incidents of stalking.
In response to the confusion surrounding the original Clery Act numbers, a committee consisting of several administrators — including Kohlman, Hooper and President Sean Decatur — will meet monthly to discuss the numbers collected by both the Office of Campus Safety and Student Affairs. They are also considering establishing a singular point person to coordinate more effective collaboration.
Another contributing factor to the confusion may have been that each department reports based on a different time span — Safety on the calendar year and Student Affairs on the academic year.
Hooper also described the Clery Act’s definitions of various offenses as “vague,” and said Safety planned to broaden their definitions in order to report more incidents. “If [an incident] meets one of the criteria, then we’ll report it,” Hooper said. He said that Safety had already received more reports of sexual misconduct this year compared to last year, attributing the increase to VAWA’s protection of those who come forward.
Several administrators kept in touch with the Department of Education (DOE) throughout the last week. According to Kohlman, they were slated to participate in a conference call with the department yesterday afternoon to discuss the new numbers, but were unable to get through. The DOE also finalized the requirements of the Clery Act only three days ago, on Oct. 20 — 20 days after higher education institutions were required to submit their statistics.
The uncertainty surrounding these regulations reaches as high as the federal government and can be attributed to a number of factors, but Interim Title IX Coordinator Linda Smolak expressed concern that the revision of the original Clery numbers sends a worrisome message. She acknowledged that the increased Title IX training for students and faculty this year was a step in the right direction, but said there was still room for progress. “I would like to see us doing more … outreach,” Smolak said. “More that students themselves can be involved in to let us know what you need to make this a safe and comfortable campus for everybody.”
Decatur, on the other hand, characterized the revised numbers as a step toward transparency. “For me, the key message is that our intent is certainly to have a complete collection of data and to make those data available to the community,” he said. “The fact that the Student Affairs office had numbers that actually go beyond what the Department of Education requires … I think is a demonstration that our intention is correct in terms of the significance of this data for the community is correct.”