BY FAREEHA REHMAN, STAFF WRITER
Mason’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report was released to the community Sept. 30, and this year’s report contained several points on dealing with sexual assault on campus.
Each September or October, Mason releases the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, a combined report that includes, but is not limited to, campus safety and security policy disclosures, statistics for Clery Act crimes and fire statistics for on-campus student housing facilities, according to the Mason Police website.
The report is based on requirements from the Jeanne Clery Act, a consumer protection law passed in 1990.
According to Eric Fowler, Mason’s Clery Compliance Coordinator, Jeanne Clery was a student at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania who was assaulted by another student in 1986, a time when doors and windows were often unlocked. Clery’s parents believed the students’ lack of concern for safety was due to the lack of transparency in universities reporting campus crime. They campaigned to pass the law nationwide.
With the passing of this law, Mason and other universities are now required to report campus crime and describe how they prevent crimes. For example, Mason’s report shows a statistical comparison of the types of Clery crimes reported in 2013, 2014 and 2015. In 2014, stalking at Mason was reported 34 times, and in 2015, 45 times. Fondling was reported seven times in 2014, and 12 times in 2015.
Although it may seem like a cause for concern to see the crime statistics reported higher, Fowler said he has a different perspective.
Fowler said that the rise in statistics is because the university has done a better job at raising awareness about reporting sexual assault through campaigns and programs, such as Bystander Awareness Training.
“Schools all over the country are reporting higher numbers, and it’s not that there’s a sudden uptick in offenders running around, it’s that more people are feeling comfortable to report,” Fowler said.
According to Fowler, one in five students is a victim of campus sexual assault, but the number of reported sexual assaults at Mason is only a sliver of that statistic. Media attention on campus sexual assault triggers more people to report, Fowler added.
“The university is saying we want you to come out of the shadows, we want you to report and get help… I think the employees are also becoming more aware of their obligations to report not only to the police but also to the Title IX coordinator,” Fowler said.
According to the Clery Center’s website, the Clery Act requires all colleges and universities who receive federal funding to report crime on campus and inform students of their efforts to improve campus safety.
It also requires these institutions to provide support and options for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.
Lastly, universities are required to outline their specific policies and procedures relating to the reporting process, post timely warnings and make emergency notifications and options available to survivors.
Aside from the increase of reported crime in certain categories, other changes were seen in Mason’s 2016 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report.
For one, the section titled “Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures” was renamed to “Sexual Harassment Misconduct Policy.”
Two other sections were also changed slightly: one for students and one for employees, titled “Procedures for Institutional Disciplinary Action in Cases of Alleged Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, Stalking or Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Committed by Students” and “Procedures for Institutional Disciplinary Action in Cases of Alleged Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, Stalking or Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Committed by Employees,” had previously said “Involving Students/Employees” rather than “Committed by.”
Although the Clery Act requires immediate emergency notifications to be sent out, it does not require universities to report on cases such as bomb threats and kidnappings, Fowler said.
However, there is a daily crime log, which can be found on the Mason Police website or Facebook.com/GMUPolice, that reports day to day crime on campus.
The 2016 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report can be viewed on police.gmu.edu.