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Originally published: 2014-04-15 20:03:07
Last modified: 2014-04-15 20:10:41

Campus crime reporting standards increase

by Anna Oakes

Appalachian State University and other colleges receiving federal funding are required by a new law to enhance educational and reporting efforts related to rape, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, University Police Chief Gunther Doerr said Monday.

Doerr gave a presentation to the ASU Faculty Senate Monday about the requirements of the Campus SaVE (Sexual Violence Elimination) Act, a law passed last year as an amendment to the 1990 Clery Act -- the legislation that required all federally funded universities to disclose campus crime statistics and security information.

The SaVE Act mandates extensive "primary prevention and awareness programs" regarding sexual misconduct and related offenses.

"We have to do training and education for all incoming students and new employees and then ongoing education and awareness for students and faculty," including bystander intervention training, Doerr said. The university must also publish mandatory statements prohibiting domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, including definitions of consent
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Fortunately, Doerr noted, ASU is already implementing bystander and other awareness programs as a result of changes instituted during the past couple of years - which include recommendations from ASU's Interpersonal Violence Task Force formed in 2012.

The law also adds rape, fondling, incest and statutory rape to the list of offenses to be reported on the university's annual security report, Doerr said.

Offenses must be reported based on where they occur regardless of who is involved, whether the persons are affiliated with the campus or not, Doerr noted. The four location categories are on-campus, residential facilities, non-campus buildings and property and public property.

In addition, the law clarifies minimum standards for campus disciplinary procedures for domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, requiring proceedings to provide a prompt, fair and impartial investigation and resolution by trained officials. It also provides that both parties in a conduct hearing may have others present during a disciplinary proceeding, including an adviser of their choice.

"It appears that this is going to allow attorneys to be present during campus judicial proceedings, which can be a challenge," Doerr said.

ASU Vice Chancellor for Student Development Cindy Wallace also expressed concerns about this change at a December 2013 board of trustees meeting.

"We view our conduct process as an educational process, and we have worked so hard to keep it separated from the judicial system," Wallace said.

Although the law took effect Oct. 1, 2013, Doerr said the federal government is requiring institutions to make a "good faith effort" to meet the new requirements in 2014, with full compliance mandatory in 2015.


ASU: Clery crime reporting challenging, 'inconsistent'

Doerr noted several challenges related to crime reporting requirements, including differences between federal and state laws and definitions of offenses.

"We have to report based on (federal) Clery definitions, but educate campus based on state definitions," he said.

In North Carolina, he explained, domestic violence is defined as occurring in a personal relationship between members of the opposite sex, but federal laws define it as occurring within a personal relationship regardless of gender. North Carolina has no dating violence statute.

The federal definition of sexual assault and sex offense also changed, he said.

"They have taken the word 'force' out; it is simply without consent," Doerr explained. "In North Carolina, it's by force and against the person's will."

North Carolina laws on fondling do not depend on gender, but state hate crime laws do not include discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation; federal laws have included these classes since 2009.

In addition to these challenges, ASU leaders have recently taken issue with what they say are inconsistent crime reporting procedures among campuses in the University of North Carolina system - specifically with regard to alcohol and drug violations.

Rehabs.com's "Drugs on Campus" project compiled rankings of the federally funded U.S. universities with the most on-campus drug and alcohol arrests based on 2011 data from the U.S. Department of Education. The analysis found that ASU ranked 11th in the nation for most on-campus drug arrests per 1,000 students and 28th in the nation for on-campus alcohol arrests per 1,000 students.

BusinessInsider.com published a story on the lists Jan. 31, and the student newspaper The Appalachian picked up the story in February.

Alcohol and drug arrest numbers vary significantly across UNC campuses. These figures are available from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education.

In 2012, for example, ASU reported 133 on-campus drug arrests and 168 on-campus alcohol arrests. In the same categories for that year, UNC-Chapel Hill reported 52 drug arrests and 25 alcohol arrests; N.C. State, 62 and 5; UNC-Charlotte, 79 and 98; UNC-Greensboro, 96 and 66; East Carolina, 109 and 165; UNC-Asheville, 12 and 9; and Fayetteville State, 18 and 0.

University safety and student development officials addressed the issue at the December 2013 and March 2014 ASU board of trustees meetings. ASU leaders said the language of the Clery Act is nuanced with regard to who has reporting authority on campuses and that every institution in the UNC system does things differently. They called for greater consistency in reporting procedures because campuses are measured against each other.

"Why are our numbers higher than other schools? I think it's because we're more disclosing," Wallace said in December.

On March 24, ASU student body president Dylan Russell sent a memo to UNC General Administration, the U.S. Department of Education and members of the media in response to the articles.

"While some UNC institutions may choose to handle violations of alcohol and drug policies through an internal means, by way of student conduct referrals that may not result in formal charges, Appalachian State University chooses to bundle citations from University Police, town of Boone Police and ALE officers or any student conduct referral all into their reported numbers," Russell wrote.

Brent Herron, associate vice president of campus safety and emergency operations for UNC General Administration, spoke to trustees on the issue in March, noting that UNC system President Tom Ross last year created a work group to study reporting procedures as part of the Campus Security Initiative. When pressed by trustees, however, Herron stopped short of affirming that ASU's numbers were the result of greater self-reporting than other UNC campuses.

"Are we getting a black eye because we're doing a better job, or are we getting a black eye because our students are drinking and using drugs more?" trustee Martin Lancaster asked Herron.

ASU Chancellor Ken Peacock added, "When I see ... schools that have zero violations, I just don't understand. When we have more so-called violations, that raises a huge question to me."

"ASU has embraced a consistent message about alcohol and drugs ... you're doing it right," Herron said. "You do a great job, but other campuses out there (that) have different approaches - they feel like they're doing great jobs, too.

"Is there a best practice out there that all campuses should be looking at? Right now, no, there's not a system policy," Herron added.

Several incidents involving students, sexual crime allegations and alcohol have thrown ASU into the media spotlight in recent years.

The university was criticized for its handling of sexual assault complaints made by two female students in 2011, which resulted in a resolution agreement with the U.S. Department of Education requiring ASU to assess and improve its policies.

And in 2012, ASU student Tyler Blalock drowned in Boone Creek after drinking at an off-campus party and bar.

Mike Steinback, ASU trustees chairman, urged ASU representatives to focus more on improving safety issues at ASU and less on numbers at other institutions.

"We all know that this is not a unique problem to us. It's pervasive," he said. "I would be much less concerned about the comparative analysis and much more focused about he process we go about and the consistency of that process and the progress of results over time."