Reports paint differing pictures of sex offenses in the Chico State community
As the University Police Department’s civilian manager, Curtis Pahlka prepared Chico State’s Annual Security Report, which was released on Sept. 29 via an email to students, staff and faculty members. However, he’s fully aware that many students probably don’t pay attention to the numbers and, furthermore, they don’t tell the whole story of how crime affects students.
“How many people actually know it exists [and use] it to make rational decisions about anything?” he asked during a recent interview, adding: “Just simply looking at the numbers isn’t going to tell the story of what goes on.”
The report, which is mandated by the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, shows the number of crimes reported in 2015 on campus and in affiliated buildings, such as recognized Greek houses.
But while the security report is useful for looking up policies—anything from the university’s procedure for handling reports of missing students to its responsibility to protect victims’ privacy—Pahlka said it’s not as helpful for identifying crime trends.
That’s because of the geographical boundaries outlined in the Clery Act, he explained. The report doesn’t include everything reported to police; only what happens on property owned by or affiliated with the university or immediately adjacent public property—thereby excluding the student neighborhoods just a stone’s throw from campus.
The most common incidents were referrals to Student Judicial Affairs or the Campus Alcohol and Drug Education Center for violating state liquor laws. The total of 109 was almost triple the number of “liquor law referrals” in 2014. There were 21 referrals for drug-related incidents, and also 13 burglaries; eight car thefts; seven arrests for weapon possession; five aggravated assaults; four reports of domestic violence; one report of fondling; and one case of stalking.
Regarding sexual assaults, there were four reported rapes, three of which occurred on campus. That’s one more than was reported in 2014.
Chico State’s Title IX Activity Report, released on Monday (Oct. 3), paints a more complete picture of what goes on, Pahlka said, at least when it comes to sexual harassment and misconduct among the campus community.
“Title IX, they’re responsible for investigating anything that is happening to students regardless of where it happened, right, whether it’s a student victim or a student perpetrator,” Pahlka explained. The Title IX report also includes faculty and staff victims and perpetrators.
The Clery Act is named for Jeanne Clery, who was a student at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Penn., in 1986, when she was raped and murdered by a fellow student inside her residence hall. A jury sentenced the assailant to death, but years later that was reduced to life in prison.
Following Clery’s death, her parents mounted a campaign seeking to improve the safety of campuses nationwide. After finding that administrators failed to offer enough information for the public on crimes committed on campus, they fought for change.
In 1990, Congress approved the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act, which became known as the Clery Act. It requires colleges that receive federal aid to keep a crime log that’s open to the public and to publish crime and fire reports every year by Oct. 1. In 2013, President Obama amended the Clery Act by signing the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which requires colleges to include in their annual reports incidents of dating violence, domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault.
Title IX, on the other hand, was established years earlier. In 1972, President Nixon signed the law, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs that receive federal aid.
In recent years, the interpretation of Title IX has evolved. Everything related to gender equity, including sexual assault, now falls under its jurisdiction. Plus, the interpretation of Title IX has changed with the times. For example, in the 1970s, transgender rights were not a big issue, but now they are, which means colleges must protect transgender students from discrimination based on gender.
In June 2015, CSU Chancellor Timothy White mandated annual Title IX training for all CSU employees and compelled Chico State to publish the Title IX report this year for the first time.
The report details 53 incidents of sexual harassment and misconduct, dating or domestic violence, or stalking from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016. It includes the nature of the complaint, a brief description and the university’s response. Of those reports, 27 of the accused perpetrators were students, two were university employees and 24 were unknown or unaffiliated with Chico State.
“Their statistics,” Pahlke said of Title IX, “show sexual assault way up here, where our [report] shows them way down here, and people just get confused.”
Indeed, there’s a marked difference in statistics between the Title IX and Clery reports. One reason for that is the removal for Title IX of geographical boundaries. A second is the time frame—Clery results are for the calendar year, while Title IX is for the fiscal year.
Dylan Saake, Chico State’s director of labor relations and compliance, also serves as the university’s Title IX coordinator. He says that as awareness of sexual assault has risen, so have reports—which is promising.
“We like to see increased reporting,” Saake said. “We don’t think it’s indicative of increased activity. We think it’s indicative of more people feeling comfortable sharing [their experiences].”
Saake said that since fall 2015, all CSU employees have completed training to help them identify sex discrimination and understand their obligation to report it.
That’s progress, because in 2014, state auditors found that Chico State—along with UCLA, UC Berkeley and San Diego State University—failed to adequately educate employees on how to handle reports of sexual misconduct. Specifically, the auditors said victims of sexual assault or misconduct felt discouraged from filing Title IX reports.
In addition to training staff, Chico State also rolled out a program called Not Anymore that’s required of all incoming students. It offers information about relationship violence, consent and bystander intervention as a way to curb sexual assaults and other crimes.
Saake says he believes the programs are working. “My guess is if the trend continues that we’ve seen so far this year, we will see increased reporting when the report comes out one year from now,” he said.