Groups plan class walkout to protest OU response to recent attacks

By Jessica Schnall
January 31, 2002
Athens News: front page

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PreWalkoutArticle_ANews

the classroom.”

A concern for many of the students involved in the planning of the rally is that they may be asked to disperse because Ohio University policy does not allow groups to congregate for events at the Civil War monument on College Green, said Damon Krane, OU senior and member of Positive Action.

According to the OU website, the university designates the West Portico of Memorial Auditorium (the concrete are immediately adjacent to the west side of the auditorium) as the location on campus where any person or group unaffiliated with OU may speak or distribute information. Richard Carpinelli, assistant vice president of student affairs and director of Baker Center, is responsible for enforcing this policy. He was not available for comment when this article went to print.

“If they do everything that is spelled out for them to do, I can’t imagine that the rally will be shut down,” Brown said.

Paul Patton, OU junior and member of Federation of United Queers (FUQ), said that although he supports the rally, he hopes that it will be planned in accordance with university rules and guidelines. “We must make sure that when we make a public attempt to do good, we work within the rules,” he said. “There is a time and place to disregard unjust laws and regulations, but there is nothing unjust about getting a permit.”

Breanne Scanlon, OU sophomore and treasurer of Feminist Coalition, said that she and several other students have drafted an open letter to the university administration and local media detailing what theu see as problems in the current university policy, which was to be delivered yesterday morning. The letter contains approximately 75 signatures of OU students, faculty and other concerned community members, Krane said. (The letter appears on page 10 of today’s Athens News.)

Scanlon said that the letter expresses the belief of many students that the university did not properly react to the recent violence on campus. “I kind f felt like [the assaults] were swept under the rug a little bit,” she said. “It was in the newspapers, but from the public’s perspective, I know so many people didn’t even know the assaults happened. This issue needs to be addressed.”

According to the Security on Campus Inc. website (www.campussafety.org), the Clery Act, originally enacted by Congress and signed into law by President George Bush in 1990 as the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990, was championed by Howard and Connie Clery after their daughter Jeanne was raped and murdered in her dorm room at Lehigh University in 1986.

Schools are required to publish an annual report every year by Oct. 1 that contains three years worth of campus crime statistics. The law was amended in 1992 to add a requirement that schools afford the victims of campus sexual assault certain basic rights, and was amended again in 1998 to expand the reporting requirements.

One of the grievances noted in the letter is that current crime statistics have not yet been posted on the OUPD’s website. Statistics are available online through 1999. The university should have responded similarly as it did to the Sept. 11 terrorist attack when the administration offered students a forum for discussion, Scanlon said.

[Editor’s note, 2/20/13 — I first learned of the Clery Act from the report contained in the three paragraphs above. I immediately looked up the act and discovered that it not only required schools to publish an annual report, but also by October 1 of each year must either supply each and every student and university employee with a copy of the annual report or notify each and every student and university employee of the report’s existence and how to obtain a full copy via regular mail. If the report is published online, the university must notify students and employees by email and include a hyperlink to the report.

To further clarify this important but incomplete news report, a school’s annual security report must contain data for the three most recently completed calendar years. That is, by October 1, 2001, OU was required to publish and notify the university community of a report containing data for the years 1998, 1999 and 2000.
Finally, the report must contain, not only itemized crime statistics, but information on crime reporting procedures, prevention programs and survivor support resources.

As this Athens News article obliquely implies before abruptly changing the subject to the September 11 attacks within a two-sentence paragraph that begins by reporting students’ claim of outdated statistics (WTF?), OU had violated the Clery Act by failing to publish its annual security report by the October 1, 201 deadline, some four months before this article’s publication. As I discovered, however, OU had also violated The Clery Act by failing to notify students and employees of its annual report — and not only in 2001, but also in 2000, 1999 and 1998. Indeed, no student then at OU could recall ever being notified of an annual campus secuirty report, and OUPD’s response to a subsequent public records request I made in 2004 provided further evidence supporting this conclusion.

Thus it would seem that in the case of each and every OU student and employee who fell victim to sexual assault, hate crime or any other crime from at least as far back as October 1, 1998 to March 6, 2002 (which is when the walkout and subsequent student demands campaign forced OU into compliance), OU had not met its obligations under federal law to have informed those students and employees of the prevalence of different types of reported crimes on OU’s campus, the procedures to report such crimes, prevention programs and support services available to crime survivors prior. From this, two reasonable conclusions follow. First, OU administrators bears some responsibility for these crime victims’ victimization. Second, by failing to disclose information on crime reporting procedures, OU contributed to an under-reporting of campus crime between 1998 and 2002.

This story was a bombshell — and it had occurred at a university that is home to one of the highest ranked journalism schools in the U.S. Yet for at least four years, every journalism major at OU missed this story, and so did the entire Athens media, which from 1998 to 2002 included three newspapers, a public radio and television station, a commercial news radio station, and online reporting operations. So chalk up another victory for intrepid American journalism.

Unfortunately, this story of university wrongdoing and journalist failure gets much worse. I’ll include links to further reporting of mine on this matter soon.]

“Maybe this is on a different scale, but it’s the same idea,” she said. “These assaults have affected our personal lives. We need a message from the university that says that they care about how we feel, and that they’re going to help us through this. And I don’t think the university is doing that right now,” she added.

Scanlon also criticized the university’s policies regarding crime prevention because she maintains they place the burden on the victim.

“Generally, policies are aimed toward what a potential victim can do to prevent an attack,” she said. “They suggest that you take self-defense classes, and to be careful with alcohol intake, but they don’t concentrate so much on the role of men, who are usually the perpetrators of these crimes.”

Patton agreed, noting, “Telling students to ‘walk in pairs’ and ‘don’t drink’ victimizes the victim. It’s an individual’s right to walk down the street without a lamppost or to walk by one’s self. It’s the university’s responsibility to ensure our safety.”

Scanlon said that while she has been pleased with certain programs in the works at the university, she believes that the university is not exploring all its options.

“The university has things like SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) and a new hate crime reporting system,” she said. “The university is obviously making efforts to combat sexual assault I general, and we applaud them for that. But they also should look into all sorts of others ways, not just programs for the victim.”

The office of Student Affairs is currently developing a hate crime reporting system, according to OU representative Brown. Committee recommendations are not yet finished, but will be available in the near future, she said.

Araj, however, said that many students believe that the university should take steps to curb violence on campus by implementing more education and awareness programs specifically geared toward men.

“If the university administration is concerned about safety, then you want everyone to be educated about what constitutes sexual assault and things of that nature,” he said. “A lot of assaults happen because people don’t realize that they’re even committing them, but they are.”

Scanlon suggested incorporating topics of sexism and gender roles into freshman orientation in a workshop setting.

“We’re not saying to the university, ‘well, you figure it out,’” she said. “We want to have a role in this. We want to help figure out policy. We don’t want the administration to do it all by themselves.”

Patton said that in addition to education programs, he would like to see a full-time Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) office established to deal with issues like this when they arise.

He said he hopes the planned walkout and rally will draw more attention to the issue of violence on campus.

“This is a wonderful idea, and we should continue to push this issue in an effort to educate people,” he said. “It’s very important that this issue is seen and heard. We can’t let it die or be forgotten. We must bear witness to the past and vow to not let this happen quite as easily in the future.”

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