Whitman releases annual security report under Clery Act

Kasey Moulton, Podcast Editor

On Oct. 1, all colleges and universities in the United States that receive federal funding are required to share an annual security report (ASR) to the campus community. This requirement is a piece of the Clery Act, legislation passed in 1990 in response to Jeanne Clery’s rape and murder in her dorm room at Lehigh University. 

Under the Clery Act, colleges are required to issue timely warnings and emergency notifications, share a public annual security report and maintain a public crime log. Clery crimes include specific criminal offenses (including sexual violence), hate crimes, Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) offenses and arrests and referrals for disciplinary action. Whitman’s crime log includes additional offenses not required under the Clery Act. The decision to include more offenses is, according to Director of Security Greg Powell, driven by a desire for transparency.  

On Sept. 30, Whitman’s 2021 Reporting Year Clery Committee, chaired by Senior Associate Dean of Students Juli Dunn, hosted a forum to discuss the report. The forum included summaries of the work completed under the Clery Act. 

The Clery Act is location-specific; incidents that occur on campus, in on-campus residences, public property or non-campus properties controlled by an officially recognized student organization must be included. Non-campus properties include the Johnson Wilderness Center, the observatory, Borleske Stadium and the athletic fields. 56 properties, including all four fraternity houses and all college-owned student rentals are classified as on-campus residential housing.

Specific requirements about geography mean that Clery crimes that occur outside of these locations, including at student rentals not owned by the College, are not included in the annual report.

The most common criminal activity reported in 2021 was alcohol referrals, at 79. Although this number is an increase from 2020, it is less than half of the 172 reported in 2019. Drug referrals declined over the last three years, dropping from 30 in 2019 to 7 in 2021. 

Reports of stalking and rape increased between 2020 and 2021. Zero incidents of dating violence were reported in 2021, compared to two in 2020. 

The Title IX Coordinator releases a yearly report detailing alleged behaviors both included and not included in the Clery Act. Those behaviors include: bias based on sex or gender, exploitation and 17 other types of alleged behaviors. In contrast, the Clery Act only requires reporting of four sexual offenses and VAWA offenses. 

All campus security reports are dependent on members of the campus community reporting incidents. Powell emphasized the importance of reporting.

“We can only stat and report what is told to [security],” Powell said. “If that information is not provided to us, then we can’t log it. It really does an injustice to the campus as a whole if we’re not being very accurate in the numbers of the incidents that are happening on campus.”

Powell confirmed that significant changes in reporting numbers may be associated with students returning to campus.

“The numbers are a lot lower than they were before [the] pandemic. That’s the way you would justify why you have higher numbers in 2019 and then come 2020 the numbers are a lot lower,” Powell said.

In 2020, a majority of students resided off campus for the fall semester. 

In addition to statistics regarding Clery crimes, the ASR also includes the Annual Fire Safety Report.  One campus residence – Sigma Chi – reported a fire in 2021. The cause of the fire is described in the report as “unattended cooking.” This was the first reported fire in a campus residence since at least 2017. Last year’s data is available on the College’s ASR page

Beyond the fire at Sigma Chi, the contents of this year’s Annual Fire Safety Report were not discussed by Clery Committee members at the Sept. 30 forum. Attendees were encouraged to read the report in full on their own.

For The Wire’s full interview with Greg Powell, tune into the “Whitman Wire Podcast” released at 11:00 a.m. on Oct. 5.