Whitman College blatantly ignores student safety in Annual Security Report

Scout Hutchinson, Opinion Editor

On Sept. 30, 2021, Whitman College released its Annual Security Report detailing several different statics on rape, forced fondling, homicide and hate crimes that have happened on campus or in the vicinity of campus. The security report is released under the Clery Act which “requires colleges and universities to report campus crime data, support victims of violence and publicly outline the policies and procedures they have put into place to improve campus safety.”  This security report was met with justified backlash due to its blatant lies about the number of incidents within these categories that have happened to Whitman students and staff. 

The report states that from 2019-2020 there have been zero rapes reported on campus and zero hate crimes in the years of 2018-2020. These statistics are blatant lies and ignore Title IX cases that have been reported and the instances of hate speech on campus that the college itself emailed students about. There was a crime on January 26, 2020, in the Reid Campus Center parking lot where a woman directed a racist slur (the N-Word) at a Black student repeatedly, and then assaulted the Black student before both she and the man she was with walked away. This incident was obviously a hate crime, as it is stated on the Whitman crime log, and a form of intimidation and should be counted under the Clery Act’s description of hate crimes of intimidation; however, the school still failed to report it. 

The Clery Act also clearly states that crimes should be counted as they are reported, regardless of prosecution, so any report to the Title IX or report to fraternities on campus should be counted. Not only does it ignore reports that have been brought to the school, it also ignores the fact that many students do not feel comfortable bringing reports to the school. This allows the school to hide behind these false statistics and paint a pretty picture of life at Whitman.

This report has also come after many students have continued to call for more action when it comes to sexual assault prevention and student safety on campus, including a recent opinion piece, by Wire columnist Hailey Livingston. For many, this was not just a slap in the face or simple mistake, it was a complete erasure, and shows that Whitman does not take their students’ safety seriously. 

Whitman has also failed to acknowledge that most students do not feel comfortable reporting instances of sexual assault such as rape or forced fondling. Not only has the college failed to accurately report its statistics but they have also failed to make substantial changes to improve campus safety. Whitman College contributes to a culture where reporting is met with backlash from the community and where Title IX officers and proceedings create more trauma for the person reporting instead of creating a safe environment. 

Title IX officers should not get involved and advise students on how they should proceed, something that should not be allowed on any college campus. The Title IX officer is there to report to and lead people through the correct channels, not to tell students their opinion. 

Whitman College cannot just send out statistics without first acknowledging that these statistics, no matter how they decide to conduct them, will never represent what happens on this campus. Instead, they completely disregard this and use “statistics” to hide behind and represent themselves as a small school where everyone should feel safe and is safe. 

The school has recently sent out an email addressing the “discrepancies” within the report, however the email itself does not excuse the fact that the report was approved and released in the first place. Kathy Murry claims that she was assured that “these mistakes were human error and were unintentional.” However, the report cannot be seen as human error, this form of apology just distances the college itself from the blatant lies that they tried to cover up. The report was not just a simple mistake. 

The email itself also tries to claim that the report just accurately represents the fact that, due to COVID-19, most students were not on campus. Congratulations Whitman, your students are only safe when they can’t be on your campus and are confined to their houses due to a global pandemic. 

Let’s make one thing clear, the school compiled this report and sent it out in hopes to paint the college as safe to prospective students and families, in the hopes that students who know what happens at Whitman would not notice. The email in response to the backlash was then compiled and sent out because Whitman got caught, it is that simple. It was also extremely convenient that the email was sent out right before parent’s weekend to try to direct and change the tone of the conversation surrounding it. 

The Annual Security Report is just another example of how Whitman blatantly ignores the safety of its students and instead prioritizes how they are perceived to the outside to incoming or prospective students and families. Whitman has yet to make substantial changes to how they deal with sexual assault and hate crimes on campus and instead spends its resources on covering them up. Whitman must do better, not in a year or after they get caught, but now. Students do not feel safe or protected, and they especially do not feel safe to report when they are met with the needs of the college before their own.