University still not doing enough to protect students

By Damon Krane, Caleb Kay, Andrew Bishop, Breanne Scanlon, Monica Ganguly, Aaron Gorelik and Rumzi Araj (Endorsed by 111 OU students, faculty and Athens community members.)

April 2, 2002
The Post (Athens, Ohio)

The Athens News (Athens, Ohio)

********************

As students, faculty and community members concerned with stamping out sexual assault and hate crimes at Ohio University, we would like to thank the OU administration for being so responsive to student concerns. After two sexual assaults and one hate crime were reported on campus within one week last quarter, hundreds of students demanded that the university modify its past assault prevention policies, presenting these demands in the form of a public letter, a rally on campus, and in subsequent meetings with administrators. In response, the university has finally complied with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crimes Statistics Act for informing students of campus crime.

The Clery Act was passed into federal law in 1990 after the parents of a murdered Lehigh University student discovered that the school had done nothing to make students or their parents aware of the extent of violent crimes on its campus The act requires al1 colleges and universities that receive any form of federal funds to compile campus crime statistics of the three most recent calendar years into annual report. The report must be issued to all students and employees by October 1st of each year, by direct mail, email or by posting the report online and directly notifying the university community of the exact URL and where to obtain a print copy of the report.

OU had been in violation of the Clery Act until March 6, 2002, when it notified all students and employees of the location of the report by email. Since the graduating class of 2002 will recognize that this is the first time they have ever been made aware of the existence of such a report, it is clear that OU has been violating this federal law since at least 1998.

OU students might have become aware of the report earlier, had OU administrators not denied being in violation for an entire month after students first brought this fact to their attention. On February 4, over 250 students walked out of class to hold a rally against sexua-L assault and hate crimes. Among the demands made by speakers was a call for OU to comply with the Clery Act. OU Dean of Students Terry Hogan then asserted, Ohio University is doing more than the clery Act requires” (Athensi.com 2/5/02) .

While previously unknown to most OU students, the Clery Act should not be obscure to OU administrators. It is the primary federal law dealing with the reporting of campus crime statistics. The full text of the act, as well as easy to read summaries, are readily available on numerous internet sites (e.g. http://www.campussafety.org, http://www.splc.org).

The OU administration has no room to plead ignorance on this matter, especially when students repeatedly brought it to their attention. At an open forum regarding assault prevention on Feb. 10, one student even went so far as to read the text of the Clery Act verbatim to OU administrators, who still continued to deny that OU was in violation. Assistant Director of OUPD Mark Mathews claimed that the Department of Education told him OU did not have to directly notify students of the report. Because the DOE is charged with enforcing Ehe acc, OU Dean of Students Terry Hogan suggested the agency may have modified the law’s written requirements.

According to Department of Education official David Bergeron, who heads the office that handles enforcing the Clery Act, this is most definitely not the case. In a telephone interview conducted March 21, Bergeron, Chief of Policy and Budget Development for the US Department of Education’s office of Post-Secondary Education, confirmed that schools are required to notify all students and employees in precisely the manner described in the act’s text.

The interview with Bergeron took all of 5 minutes. And yet it was more than a month after students first confronted administrators about their violation of the Clery Act before OU was finally brought into compliance. Interestingly, this delay cannot be attributed to the time it took to compile the annual report itself, since, according to Bergeron, OU had submitted the crime statistics from its report to the Department of Education by last October’s deadline.

At best, the Ohio University administration has proven itself severely incompetent in this situation. At worst, administrators have shown that they care little about students’ physical safety. As OUPD assistant director Mark Mathews told students at a February 11 assault prevention forum, “On your way to OU, you didn’t pass any signs along the highway that said ‘Welcome to Athens, bad things don’t happen here.’” (Athens News: 2/14/02)

Even after 90 people signed a letter published in The Post and Athens News articularting concerns and enumerating specific demands… even after over 300 students walked out of class to hold a rally on College Green which attracted state-wide media attention… even after students voiced their concerns directly to administrators in three separate meetings – all OU has done in response is to comply with the minimal requirements of a federal law it had been violating. Indeed, OU President Robert Glidden has never even publicly acknowledged the student campaign and its findings of OU’s violations of federal law.

Mark_Mathews
(OUPD’s longtime number two, Mark Mathews, was the official responsible for Clery Act compliance in October 2001.)

The students who pay to attend school here, and the people of Athens who live and work in a community dominated by this university, all deserve much better.

While the annual Clery report informed students that sexual assaults and hate crimes do happen on this campus, it does little to prevent these attacks and nothing to change the culture that supports them. Therefore, we demand the university administration immediately begin enacting ALL of the following measures:

• Create a campus women’s center, with full-time staff, designed and administered by a coalition of women’s studies faculty and feminist student organizations.

• Expand the women’s studies certificate program into a full-fledged major.

• Create a queer studies department.

• Form a coalition with other Ohio schools to lobby against Ohio House Bill 234 and all state legislation which could prevent granting OU employees domestic partnership benefits. (OSU has already publicly announced its opposition to such legislation.)

• Designate LGBT-friendly floors in residence halls.

• Implement longer first-year student orientation and mandatory sexual assault prevention programs specifically geared towards men.

• Implement a mandatory diversity course.

• Create a full-time director position for the LGBT programs office.

• Require OU tour guides to provide prospective students and their parents with literature containing information about sexual assault statistics, prevention, survivor support and assault reporting resources.

Students are deprived of educational opportunities when their basic physical safety is at risk. For the sake of our own safety and that of our siblings, romantic partners and friends, we want to make it clear hat we will not be pacified by the lip service of the public relations officials we have been dealing with thus far. We demand these changes and will do what is necessary to achieve them. The last few months have taught us that OU students cannot depend on this administration to implement policies with students’ best interests in mind. No one will win these changes for us.

*********************

Epilogue, 1/10/13

According to documents I obtained from a 2005 public records recquest, Mark Mathews was the OU official directly responsible for ensuring the univeristy’s Clery Act compliance in October 2001. More than two weeks after OU’s deadline for notifying students of the annual campus security report had passed without OU’s compliance, Mathews was quoted in an October 18 Athens News article dismissing student concerns about insufficient emergency lighting and telephones on campus. Although OU’s violations of the Clery Act began before Mathews was made responsible for compliance, Mathews nonetheless had a personal stake in incorrectly describing the law’s requirements and deflecting public attention from the issue during the 2002 campaign.

Mathews’ disregard for federal law and student safety was not enough for OU to fire or discipline him in 2002. This is not surprising given that Mathews’ superior, OUPD chief Steven Ramirez, also mistated the Clery Act’s requirements in an April 19, 2001 Athens News article that also quotes Ramirez saying, “[A]lcohol abuse leads to poor decision making. The most common crime it leads to is date rape.” Ramirez resigned in 2003 after an internal investigation found he had sexually harassed a female subordinate officer.

Mathews, on the other hand, would stay with OUPD for the next decade, twice serving as the department’s interim chief, in 2006 and 2008, respectively. During that time, two other OUPD officers serving under Mathews faced sexual harassment lawsuits, and one was convicted of having sexually oriented online conversations with female minors.

In 2012 OU finally did fire Mathews, then deputy chief, for failing to agree to a last chance offer stemming from a traffic stop in which he was found driving while intoxicated. Although Mathews, who was pulled over by the Athens Police Department, reportedly failed four of six sobriety tests, APD opted not to give Mathews a breathalyzer test or charge him with a Driving While Intoxicated. According to the Athens News, “[APD chief Tom] Pyle acknowledged that in deciding not to charge Mathews, his officers probably took into account that he was a police officer…” (For the hilarious back-peddling that followed Pyle’s initial admission of departmental corruption, see Athens News, 1/20/12.) However, OU launched its own investigation into the traffic stop. According to then OU Police Chief Andrew Powers: “Capt. Mathews reported for duty just six hours after the stop, most likely still somewhat under the influence of alcohol… He did not report the incident to me, as required by policy. In total, Capt. Mathews violated five sections of OUPD policy during the course of this incident” (Athens News, 3/28/12)

In its coverage of Mathews’ drunk driving incident, The Post reported on January 19, 2012 that Mathews’ personel file “references a pushing incident between Mathews and another man on Court Street in 1993. It also contains details Mathews provided to OU in 1992 saying he was arrested in Athens for underage consumption in 1989 while he was an OU student; that he used marijuana several times in 1987 and 1988; and that he stole street signs, blinking lights and milk crates in 1987.”

With people like this looking after student safety at Ohio University, what could students possibly have to worry about?

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3 Responses to University still not doing enough to protect students

  1. Pingback: Just going through the motions | Damon Krane

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  3. Pingback: Better messaging, decision-making would strengthen Athens Take Back the Night march | Damon Krane

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