374% Increase in Alcohol Referrals: 2018 Clery Report

Audrey Hecker, Staff Reporter

The Annual Security Report & Annual Fire Safety Report for 2017 were recently released by Whitman’s Title IX Administrator, Juli Dunn. These reports detail the college’s expectations and procedures regarding reporting crimes, emergency response, security, counseling, alcohol and drug use and sexual misconduct claims. The report also discloses the crime statistics for the years of 2017, 2016, and 2015.

Of all the information within the Clery Report, most striking is the number of alcohol referrals, which increased by approximately 374 percent from 2016 to 2017.

However, Dunn believes that this spike has little to do with students’ drinking habits.

“I [attribute] the big jump in these numbers to increased consistency in addressing and increased documentation of such incidents,” Dunn said. “I think that can better help us as a community understand our environment and address issues more proactively.”

The information contained within the reports is derived from five sources: “the Walla Walla Police Department, Whitman’s Security Office, Whitman’s Environmental Health and Safety Office, Residence Life, and disclosures shared with me in my capacity as the College’s Title IX Administrator,” Dunn said. It is then reviewed by many staff members within different offices that oversee information within given sections of the report.

While the college attempts to ensure that the information is factually sound by implementing these rigorous evaluation committees, Dunn has some concerns about how the material is read.

“My main concern is that [people] reading it only flip to the stats and don’t read all the other material,” Dunn said. “The other concern I have is that people try to use the data as comparison data to other institutions or other reports that come from other areas of the College that report similar, yet different information.”

Dunn referenced sexual violence as perhaps the most common instance of comparison. One such difference is the fact that Whitman tracks “sex- or gender-based incidents apart from the Clery report,” Dunn said, while other institutions don’t. There is also a difference in how Whitman tracks incidents: July to June, as opposed to January to December.

The reliability of incident reports can also be examined based on data. In 2017, the AAUW (American Association of University Women) examined the number of reported rapes by colleges that submit data under the Clery Act in 2015. Out of 11,000 institutions, 89 percent reported zero incidences of rape. Given the statistics of rapes occurring on college campuses, “that just doesn’t add up,” Dunn said.  

The numbers may concern some, but Dunn sees them as testaments to the well-founded sense of community at Whitman.

“Some folks are concerned that higher numbers correlate with less safety. I don’t think this is true,” Dunn said. “I think it says a lot about this community that persons are will to share disclosures or reports about Clery related incidents. I am grateful to be on a campus where many people feel safe enough to share their experience; it takes tremendous courage and faith … in a system to do so.”

The intention of the Clery Report is to provide transparency about the crime that may be occurring in and around campus. The implementation of this system is important not only for safety purposes, but also for building a network of trust and candor within the community. Such a system is only possible if community members continue to step up and report these pressing issues; Dunn encourages students and faculty to do so when necessary, so that Whitman can continue to foster this culture of transparency and accountability.