Kenyon reported the highest number of forcible sexual offenses among the Five Colleges of Ohio last year, according to the schools’ crime statistics released Oct. 1.
Colleges that receive federal funding are required to release an annual report on crimes committed on campus within the most recent full calendar year, per the Clery Act.
Andrea Goldblum, civil rights and Title IX coordinator, thinks the special focus placed this school year on Title IX training will affect the number of reported sex-offense cases for 2015, as students become more aware of their options regarding reporting certain crimes.
“The more effort you put in up front, your numbers are actually going to go up in those areas,” Goldblum said. “That doesn’t mean that more is happening; it just means that people feel safer reporting. … I fully expect, or would not be surprised, if our numbers in the sex offenses go up next year.”
Kenyon’s annual on-campus crime report modifies the way it classifies sex crimes. Whereas in 2012 and 2013 sex offenses were categorized as “forcible” or “non-forcible,” they are now listed as reported cases of rape, fondling, incest, or statutory rape. Four cases of rape and nine cases of fondling, which qualify as forcible sex offenses, were reported, up from eight such offenses in 2013. No counts of incest or statutory rape, which are considered non-forcible offenses, were reported. Kenyon was the only institution in the Five Colleges of Ohio to redefine its sex offenses in this way. Goldblum said this redefinition was mandated by federal regulations under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Title IX.
Last year, the College revised its Clery report and formed a special committee after initially failing to include some cases of sexual misconduct due to a miscommunication between the Offices of Student Affairs and Campus Safety.
“We’re committed to do this right, and be as fair as we can,” Bob Hooper, director of campus safety and a member of that committee, said.
For its data collection this year, Kenyon hired the firm Margolis Healy, which, according to its website, is “a professional services firm specializing in campus safety, security, and regulatory compliance for higher education and K-12.” Goldblum is familiar with the company, having previously worked as its manager of regulatory compliance.
“Many of their staff have long histories of working with Clery,” Goldblum said. “Their advice is incredibly helpful.”
Despite Margolis Healy’s involvement, the College alone has responsibility for ensuring that crimes are classified correctly. Goldblum said third parties like Margolis Healy will not be involved in the process every year.
“To me, the best practice is every so many years you should have someone take a look at your numbers and see how you’re doing,” Goldblum said.
The College is likely to receive scrutiny over its sex-offense statistics, especially after an Oct. 2 Chronicle of Higher Education article revealed that roughly one in four college women are subjected to sexual misconduct, only one-third of whom report the wrongdoing
The College’s security report also grew from 12 to 51 pages, which Hooper said is a result of the College working to enhance the information it provides, and thus bring its security policies into compliance with VAWA and Title IX.
Kenyon is not the only institution of its type expecting an increase in reported sexual assaults.
“I believe the probability of choosing to report is higher, and that we will see higher numbers for several years,” Marjorie Burton, Oberlin College’s director of safety and security, wrote in an email to the Collegian. “That’s a good thing, because … the support systems the College provides are being utilized when they are needed for the support of persons involved.”
Like Goldblum and Burton, Joe Kirk, associate director for security and protective services and director for Greek life at the College of Wooster, expects more reports next year, based in part on the number of Wooster’s ongoing investigations.
“We’ve worked as a department and an institution to get people comfortable with reporting,” Kirk said. Kirk also cited anonymous social media platforms like Yik Yak as a growing problem for identifying problematic behaviors and comments surrounding sex offenses.