This post has nothing to do with Chester County, per se. It is just one of those things that makes me think. It made me think of a girl who once lived in Bryn Mawr. A girl who was raped and murdered in her dorm room at prestigious Lehigh University in 1986. Jeanne Clery.
At the time, it shocked everyone who heard about this even if you had never met the girl. She was the same age give or take a year as my own sister who attended another not so far away prestigious Pennsylvania college. This girl was also but a few years younger than I was and was from the same area I grew up in: the Main Line. You just don’t think about nice Main Line girls from Main Line prep schools going away to college and getting raped and murdered do you? Especially at schools like Lehigh, right?
The story of Jeanne Clery galvanized the greater Philadelphia area and the country. Eventually, on July 22, 1988, the murderer of Jeanne Clery was sentenced to death after being convicted of her murder.
During the trial, he and his wife learned about the lapses in security at Lehigh, and shortly after the verdict was announced, they filed a $25 million suit against the college for negligence. It was to be the first round in a campaign that would touch state legislatures, colleges and concerned parents across the country. The Clerys had lost a daughter, but the loss ignited a cause.
The suit was settled out of court (the family is prohibited from disclosing the amount), but the Clerys were not ready to close the book. They used the cash, as well as their own money, to launch Security on Campus, Inc., a nonprofit clearing house for information and advice. They began lobbying state lawmakers for statutes requiring colleges to publicize their crime statistics—not a detail generally found in cheery recruitment brochures—and in May 1988, Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey signed the first such bill mandating that all state colleges and universities publish three-year campus-crime reports. In addition, schools are required to have clear policies regarding alcohol and drug consumption on campus. Three more states have followed Pennsylvania’s lead, 21 others have statutes in the works, and the Clerys have already begun campaigning for a federal bill as well.
The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (20 USC § 1092(f)) is the landmark federal law, originally known as the Campus Security Act, that requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses. The law is tied to an institution’s participation in federal student financial aid programs and it applies to most institutions of higher education both public and private. The Act is enforced by the United States Department of Education.
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. The 1998 amendments also formally named the law in memory of Jeanne Clery. Subsequent amendments in 2000 and 2008 added provisions dealing with registered sex offender notification and campus emergency response. The 2008 amendments also added a provision to protect crime victims, “whistleblowers”, and others from retaliation.
What made me think of Jeanne Clery and all her family has accomplished after all of these years? Two disturbing stories of sexual assault on college campuses. One from May 2014 in Philadelphia Magazine about Swarthmore College and a recent front page story in The New York Times on Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
Rape Happens Here PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE
For 150 years, leafy, progressive Swarthmore College tried to resolve student conflicts in the best Quaker tradition — peacefully and constructively. Then came 91 complaints of sexual misconduct. In a single year.
In the early 1980s, staff members in one of Swarthmore’s libraries began hanging reams of white computer paper in the bathroom stalls, which students would use to gossip about cute boys or gripe about homework. A few years ago, pieces of white paper of a different sort began appearing in campus bathrooms. They’re printed up by the administration and emblazoned with the words SEXUAL ASSAULT RESOURCES…
As the issue of campus assault gains national media traction, stories about incompetent or callous administrators have become bleakly — almost numbingly — familiar. ….The unrest that’s roiled the little U.S. News & World Report juggernaut 11 miles southwest of Philadelphia over the past year — including dozens of allegations of student-on-student sexual assault, two federal investigations, two student-filed federal lawsuits, and four (unprecedented) expulsions for sexual misconduct — nominally revolves around a campus rape problem and an administration accused of abetting it. But the conflict in fact runs deeper: Swarthmore’s 150-year-old Quaker-inspired governing philosophy has collided with the far less forgiving demands of contemporary campus life.
….ON APRIL 25, 2013, Swarthmore sophomores Hope Brinn and Mia Ferguson stood on Independence Mall in Philadelphia and told assembled media that the college had badly mishandled claims of sexual assault; in response, they were bringing a Title IX complaint to the federal government. This was just days after the duo filed a separate Clery Act complaint alleging that Swarthmore had systematically underreported such incidents. The complaints were part of a larger strategy — they later met with high-profile attorney Gloria Allred — in which Brinn, Ferguson and a couple dozen co-complainants aimed to use their personal stories to shame and ultimately reform their college.
Ferguson, from Brookline, Massachusetts, wrote an op-ed, “Raped and Betrayed,” for a student newspaper. Brinn, from Wilmington, Delaware, stood before the school’s board and told how she was sexually assaulted, stalked, and then met with “grave indifference” by the administration. Within a couple months, the Department of Education began investigating the school for Clery and Title IX violations. The controversy only increased when the New York Times ran a story in which Ferguson suggested that she had been denied a campus job in retaliation for her activism. By the end of the year, it seemed everyone was lobbing one accusation or another at Swarthmore. In 2012, 11 incidents of sexual assault were reported to the school’s public safety department. In 2013, that number — covering everything from harassment to rape — spiked to 91. (One-third of them concerned incidents from previous years.)….“Sally,” a 2012 graduate, said she was at a party in the fall of her freshman year when a fellow student cornered her, pushed her against a wall, and began to kiss her…Later that night, Sally awoke to find the same student had entered her room and climbed on top of her. She managed to push him off. When she told associate dean Myrt Westphal she wanted to pursue charges through the College Judiciary Committee (CJC), she says, Westphal asked her to say “harassment” rather than “assault,” and questioned whether she really wanted to “pit her two friends against each other.” Discouraged, Sally declined to pursue judiciary action. (Westphal, who retired last spring, declined to comment.)
Similar stories are legion. Jean Strout, a 2010 graduate now studying at Harvard Law School, says that after she was pinned to the ground by a naked, drunk rugby player, she spoke to a male administrator by phone, who told her it sounded like a “misunderstanding” and that she should ask the offender for an apology.
A recent graduate who now practices law in New York City says that when she told an administrator she had been raped, the administrator said, “You don’t sound as if you were raped,” and, noticing the cross hanging around her neck, asked if she wanted to see a priest…..However, after months of conversations she calls “frustrating” and “invalidating,” she ultimately declined to pursue it: “I was tired of fighting, and wanted to focus on healing.”
Another student, according to the Title IX complaint, was raped in her dorm room by a friend of a friend with alcohol on his breath. Before he left the room, he looked at her, smiled, and told her, “It’s your word against mine.” After she recounted the incident in a long email to a member of the administration, her complaint says, school officials never got in touch with her or did any investigation.
(in both publications, these are HUGE articles, click on the hyperlinks above each excerpt to read then in their entirety.)
GENEVA, N.Y. — She was 18 years old, a freshman, and had been on campus for just two weeks when one Saturday night last September her friends grew worried because she had been drinking and suddenly disappeared.
Around midnight, the missing girl texted a friend, saying she was frightened by a student she had met that evening. “Idk what to do,” she wrote. “I’m scared.” When she did not answer a call, the friend began searching for her.
In the early-morning hours on the campus of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in central New York, the friend said, he found her — bent over a pool table as a football player appeared to be sexually assaulting her from behind in a darkened dance hall with six or seven people watching and laughing. Some had their cellphones out, apparently taking pictures, he said.
Later, records show, a sexual-assault nurse offered this preliminary assessment: blunt force trauma within the last 24 hours indicating “intercourse with either multiple partners, multiple times or that the intercourse was very forceful.”…It took the college just 12 days to investigate the rape report, hold a hearing and clear the football players. The football team went on to finish undefeated in its conference, while the woman was left, she said, to face the consequences — threats and harassment for accusing members of the most popular sports team on campus….
At a time of great emotional turmoil, students who say they were assaulted must make a choice: Seek help from their school, turn to the criminal justice system or simply remain silent. The great majority — including the student in this case — choose their school, because of the expectation of anonymity and the belief that administrators will offer the sort of support that the police will not.
Yet many students come to regret that decision, wishing they had never reported the assault in the first place.
For women to report sexual assault at any age is traumatizing. Read articles about the topic and you learn the common denominator: victims are often victimized again through any judicial process. But what we are talking about here is on college and university campuses. Which in my mind is always geared first to protect the school and administration.
So as far as we have come in this country with things like the Clery Act and heightened awareness on the topic, it seems like many colleges and universities are still treating issues like this poorly if not sweeping them under the carpet? Remember the 2007 front page stories of the Villanova football players accused of raping a girl in her dorm room? Remember but a few days later the victim halted the rape case?
The Philadelphia Inquirer at the time reported on it and said in a July 27, 2007 article:
A Villanova University student who told the school that she had been raped by three incoming freshman football players, who have since been kicked out of school, does not want to press charges, Radnor police said yesterday…..Villanova’s department of public safety does not have arrest powers, he said. Radnor police are working with the District Attorney’s Office to clarify Villanova’s obligation to report allegations of serious crimes, he said.
……For colleges, whose capital lies in their reputations, the only thing worse than a scandal is getting caught trying to hush one up.
At Eastern Michigan University, president John Fallon and two other senior officials were fired last week for covering up the rape and murder of a 22-year-old woman in her dorm room in December. The university denied knowledge of foul play for 10 weeks to protect the school’s image, according to a federal investigation.
Schools typically “keep as quiet as they can” about crime on campus, said Kathryn Reardon, senior lawyer at the Victim Rights Law Center in Boston, which provides legal aid to alleged sexual-assault victims.
Villanova’s handling of the matter “seems pretty speedy,” she said.
The Swarthmore College article by Philadelphia Magazine and the New York Times article on Hobart William Smith has ignited this topic once again.
In 1986 I was much younger and what happened to Jeanne Clery was seen from the scary perspective of that girl was my sister’s age and only a few years younger than me. The recent Philadelphia Magazine article and New York Times article hits me as an adult who not only had friends that attended both of those schools but have friends who have kids of their own or nieces and nephews and even grand children at these schools today.
The Hobart and William Smith article in the New York Times was very hard for me to read. I remember going there back in the day to visit friends from high school and I remember how much my friends loved the school. I remember how terrific I thought the school was and how pretty the campus was. And now, decades later, these same friends, male and female are horrified by the New York Times article.
So is this a case of everything that is old is new again? Even as far as we have come with raising awareness on college campuses and laws on the books about how and what campuses must report and so on, are we still dealing in the murky waters of reality versus the veritable machines that are colleges and universities? After all, negative little things like crime can really hurt the old ratings, rankings, grants, and donations right?
But as a newish parent person now I have to ask, would you rather deal with a school that tells the truth and acknowledges issues or covers it up and makes everything seem all ivy walled and bucolic with Skip and Sissy walking down a brick lined path to class holding hands?
As someone who was a young adult when Jeanne Clery was murdered I think I would rather have the truth, please. After all, for what parents fork over in tuition, don’t they deserve the truth? And our kids, don’t they deserve the truth and don’t you want them to feel and be safe, especially if they have to report something heinous like an assault?
Anyway, this made me think about this topic again, and I guess I just don’t get these schools. I get they want to protect their hallowed halls but the truth shall set them free, right? It makes me wonder how honest schools around this country are with their Clery Act reporting.
Also worth reading? A great piece on the topic in Slate.
Can universities handle their role as independent investigators and adjudicators of sexual assault? You may conclude that the answer is no after you read Walt Bogdanich’s big story in the New York Times about the aftermath of an alleged assault at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York. It’s called “Reporting Rape, and Wishing She Hadn’t” because from the point of view of Anna, the student who says she was victimized, her school did almost everything wrong….What a disappointing, dismaying mess. And yet, I’m not ready to give up on the whole university adjudication system. People ask me all the time why universities have any responsibility for dealing with rape accusations in the first place. These are serious allegations. Shouldn’t they be in the hands of police, prosecutors, and judges? The answer is that there are supposed to be two parallel tracks. It’s not either/or. In passing and enforcing Title IX, the federal law that’s a shield against sex discrimination in an educational setting, Congress gave schools an independent obligation to investigate allegations of sexual assault and harassment. That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t also be a police investigation.
Stories like Anna’s make the schools look at best bumbling and insensitive, and at worst like craven slaves to their own images and, too often, their athletic departments. I should also say that male students have complained of being falsely accused, railroaded by school judicial procedures, and unjustly expelled. Still, before we give up on colleges, Congress and the Department of Education, which oversees Title IX, should demand transparency. We hear horror stories about individual cases but we don’t have the data to know what’s happening across the board.
Then of course there is the rather predictable I-really-didn’t- beat-my-spouse response in the New York Times from Hobart and William Smith’s Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees:
Re “Reporting Rape, and Wishing She Hadn’t” (front page, July 13):
The Hobart and William Smith Colleges community is heartbroken by our student’s experience, and we deeply regret the pain she has suffered. Her experience does not reflect the environment, values and traditions we have built and maintained for nearly two centuries at Hobart and William Smith. As an alumna, a proud mother of a daughter who graduated from HWS, and chairwoman of the board of trustees, I write with a heavy heart.
Like all colleges and universities, HWS is challenged to ensure that we are meeting the demands of a shifting legal landscape — especially in the area of sexual assault — as we also work to meet the needs of students while fostering a safer and more collegial learning environment.
We welcome the conversation about whether higher education should even have a role in adjudicating cases like this one. However, until federal law changes, we are required to carry out internal investigations and adjudicate cases based on the preponderance of evidence standard, as we did in this case.
….MAUREEN COLLINS ZUPAN
Chairwoman, Board of Trustees
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Geneva, N.Y., July 15, 2014
There are more letters underneath that one, but that was enough to share. I hate to say it but it seems that Maureen Collins Zupan has more empathy for a Somalian refugee that was cleaning her office ladies room in September 2011, than she does for women on the college campus of Hobart and William Smith Colleges?
She wrote about that Somalian woman:
In all fairness I wouldn’t want to be president of the board of trustees of this school right now for all the tea in China, and perhaps her response was in part crafted by the college’s spin doctors and image consultants? It’s not as if all she was saying is wrong, to me it was kind of sort of HOW she said it. She calls herself a feminist, mother, daughter, and so on. I have never met a true feminist yet who would sit still for something like this do you?
Also worth reading? A June 10th essay in The Atlantic.
Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will wrote in The Washington Post on Sunday that being sexually assaulted has become “a coveted status that confers privileges” such that “victims proliferate.” His remarks hit at the core of the misunderstanding and denial that condone sexual assault in its most common form:
Consider the supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. “sexual assault.” Herewith, a Philadelphia magazine report about Swarthmore College, where in 2013 a student “was in her room with a guy with whom she’d been hooking up for three months”…Six weeks later, the woman reported that she had been raped.Now the Obama administration is riding to the rescue of “sexual assault” victims. It vows to excavate equities from the ambiguities of the hookup culture, this cocktail of hormones, alcohol, and the faux sophistication of today’s prolonged adolescence of especially privileged young adults.
That Swarthmore vignette is sexual assault—not “sexual assault.” Most sexual assault is perpetrated by an acquaintance, not a masked man in the bushes with a knife, and its definition hinges not on physical force but absence of consent. This is a quintessential example of the shape sexual assault takes when it goes unreported and unpunished. Apart from editorial missteps like using skeptical quotes around sexual assault, and accusing an entire generation of faux sophistication while using “herewith” in a thoughtless take on a critical public-health issue, citing the Philadelphia rape story is fraught in that its resonating importance comes in the paragraphs just after Will stops quoting it.
….According to a report today from the U.S. Department of Education, the number of sexual assaults reported on college campuses increased by 50 percent between 2001 and 2011—from 2,200 to 3,300 cases. That’s actually more heartening than disconcerting, in that it’s unlikely that sexual assault increased by that much; rather, more victims are coming forward. They come forward when they don’t feel they’ll be blamed for being raped, dismissed as drunken sluts, and when there are appropriate outlets for reporting and justice. But it’s still underreported and underpunished, thus condoned.
James Hamblin makes a whole lot of sense. The US Department of Education and US Department of Justice report can be found by clicking on this link here.
We can’t and shouldn’t helicopter parent and can’t wrap them away from the world in cotton wool, but kids should not only learn quite clearly that no isn’t necessarily a negotiation and should mean NO, but they should be as safe as humanly possibly on college campuses.
Remember Jeanne Clery.
Thanks for stopping by.