A legally required Annual Fire and Safety Report was emailed to Central Michigan University students and faculty, but lacks some important context when it comes to sex crimes.
Insider will continue to look deeply to all crimes this year, which includes updating a crime data page every week. However, at a time when sexual assault on college campuses has been making headlines across the nation, it’s important to know background information on any data surrounding this issue.
The email that was sent to members of the CMU community said “the Central Michigan University Police Department is continually dedicated to keeping the campus community safe, and this includes providing relevant information on safety and security.”
While that could be true, universities are legally required to release an annual report of crime statistics under the Jeanne Clery Act.
The Act was established after a 19-year-old college woman was murdered in her dorm room. Her parents were shocked at the lack of information on crimes at college campuses.
Failure to comply with the Clery Report can result in serious fines. For example, the University of Nebraska at Kearney was fined $65,000 for failing to comply with the Clery Report.
According to the report, there were 10 rapes. Seven of these rapes occurred in residential facilities, which includes any student housing owned or controlled by the university. There were also 4 incidents of fondling.
However, the number of students who were raped at Central Michigan University is likely much higher.
A recent survey that took data from 27 universities including the University of Michigan and Michigan State University shows about one in four college women will be sexually assaulted. Keep in mind sexual assault can range from unwanted kissing to rape. Of the people who reported being sexually assaulted, 11 percent said it included oral sex or penetration.
The survey said many sexual assaults are not reported to the university; however, a common reason why the survivors didn’t report their attack is because they believed administrators would not view their allegations seriously.
While the report does include a non-campus section, it does not necessarily include all off-campus locations.
Non-campus includes buildings owned by student organizations recognized by CMU. An example would be Greek housing. It also includes buildings owned by the university, but not on the main campus.
The section could also include buildings that are “in relation to, the institution’s educational purposes, is frequently used by students, and is not within the same reasonably contiguous geographic area of the institution.”
However, it does not include all assault that occur in off-campus buildings.
CMU Police Department Lieutenant Larry Klaus Insider acknowledged to Insider in the spring the Clery Report didn’t include all rapes that occur off-campus.
“(An assault that occurs) in an apartment out on Deerfield, which is in the county of Isabella, even though that involves our students, we wouldn’t count that in our Clery numbers,” Klaus told Insider.
Insider’s freedom of information act requests found the Mount Pleasant Police Department received 33 reports of sexual assaults where the victim is between the ages of 18 to 24 from August 20, 2011, to January 30, 2015 and the Isabella County Sheriff’s Department were notified of 11 incidents of sexual assaults in which the victim was aged 18-24 in Mount Pleasant and Union Township from August 5, 2011, to December 15, 2014.
The data also doesn’t clarify how many students reported their assault to the university, police or both.
That’s why CMU Insider in the spring tried and failed to discover how many complaints the university received in the past three years. Insider was told repeatedly it didn’t keep records on the number of sexual assault complaints handled administratively.
While the report does include how many students were disciplined by the university for alcohol, drug or weapon violations, it does not state how many students were sanctioned by the university for sexual assault.
Perhaps more importantly, the report does not indicate the result of any criminal or university investigation, including for sexual assault.
After Insider published the first part of our investigation, another freedom of information request was sent asking for the number of sanctions given for sexual assault in the 2013-2014 year at CMU. It asked how many people were investigated, but were found not responsible for sexual assault in the 2013-2014 year. Insider also asked how many students who were sanctioned were expelled.
CMU’s general counsel office only gave the number of students sanctioned, which was six. The response said the university does not keep any records that would answer the request. Therefore, it’s impossible to know what happened to the students that were sanctioned.
Other universities such as the University of Michigan and Michigan State University release an annual report that includes all complaints of sexual misconduct and how cases were handled. These reports are separate from the institution’s Clery Report. However, this is not required by law, but is encouraged by the Department of Education.
It’s important to note CMU is not legally required to provide crime statistics on off-campus locations, nor are institutions required to disclose how many people were administratively investigated or sanctioned for sexual assault under the Clery Act. However, it’s important to understand this report fails to capture the total magnitude of sexual assault.
While the Annual Safety and Security Report remains useful as a baseline to start understanding crime statistics around campus, but do not believe it covers the full scope of crimes at CMU.
Arielle Hines is the editor of CMU Insider. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.