Clery Act maintains transparency

By Michael Santone, Editor-in-Chief

College campuses are supposed to be safe zones for obtaining knowledge, building careers and blossoming friendships. However, college-age adults are at a higher risk for sexual assault than the general population.

According to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), among undergraduate college students, 23 percent of women and 5 percent of men experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence or incapacitation.

If a rape or sexual assault were to happen at Contra Costa College, what is the process and procedures in which it would be handled?

“According to policy, if a rape occurred on campus, the process would begin with a criminal investigation by Police Services,” Dean of Student Services Dennis Franco said.

“(The) student services (area) would support Police Services in their investigation and if the victim allowed their identity to be shared with campus officials, we would help the victim obtain counseling.”

Franco said student services would provide resources for the victim either on campus through the Student Wellness Program, the Confidential Student Assistance Program or through similar services in the community.

In 1990, the Clery Act was signed into federal law requiring all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to keep and disclose information about crime on and near their respective campuses.

The law is named after Jeanne Clery, a 19-year-old Lehigh University student who was raped and murdered in her campus hall of residence by student Joseph Henry in 1986.

Along with providing an annual security report Oct. 1 of every year, the law requires the institution’s police to maintain a public log of all crimes reported to them.

It also requires law enforcement officials to keep the most recent eight years of crime statistics either on campus, in institutional residential facilities, in off-campus buildings or on public property.

Crimes that must be reported include murder, sex offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle thefts and arson. A record of all campus arrests must also be in the annual report.

Aside from maintaining the crime log and reporting crime statistics, through the Clery Act institutions are required to give timely warnings of crimes that represent a threat to the safety of students or employees.

CCC Police Services Lt. Tom Holt said if a rape or sexual assault did happen on campus, procedures and policies would be implemented for the protection and safety of not only the victim, but the campus community as well.

“We would most likely do a Regroup Broadcast, probably followed up by an email to inform the campus,” Lt. Holt said. “The report would also show up on the daily log and the (college) public information officer would help with expanding the message if needed.”

The Regroup Broadcast or campuswide alert system, which is used for emergencies like sexual assault, if verified as such, would immediately send a mass message via text and email to the campus community with the description of the suspect, time, date and location of the assault.

Holt said depending on the information obtained about the suspect at the time, the cancellation of classes for the remainder of the day would be a possibility.

“Sexual assaults have been reported in the district in the past and we advised the public via Regroup and email,” he said. “More people have been trained on how to use Regroup to assist with getting the message out faster.”

Holt said, “There isn’t necessarily a policy as much as Title IX compliance for the college — for Police Services this is more related to what information we are required to put out to comply with The Clery Act and what information we cannot put out to comply with California Penal Code Section 293 (victim confidentiality).”

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a comprehensive federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. Both sexual harassment and sexual violence are forms of sex discrimination covered under Title IX.

The annual Campus Crime Awareness Report for the Contra Costa Community College District, that was released in October, shows there were no forcible sex offenses from 2015 to 2017 at CCC, Diablo Valley and Los Medanos colleges.

However, the report for Contra Costa College shows an uptick in domestic violence, dating violence, burglary and aggravated assault on campus.

Currently, 59 percent of the student body is comprised of women, according to the 2017-18 Datamart statistics provided by the state Chancellor’s Office.

Franco said, “About a year and half ago we implemented Not Anymore, which is an online module embedded in the New Student Orientation. Not Anymore is an interactive online program designed to prevent sexual assault, dating and domestic violence and stalking through awareness and education.”

Franco said while an initial crime investigation is going on and the campus community has been notified, a Title IX case would be opened.

Like The Clery Act, Title IX covers all students and staff in any educational institution or program that receives federal funding.

“Parallel to the police investigation, an administrative Title IX case would be opened by the campus Title IX coordinator forwarding the case to the district Title IX officer who would conduct said investigation,” Franco said. “During this period, we would also remove the accused assailant from the class and/or campus to ensure the safety of the victim.”

In December of 2018, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos proposed changes to how sexual crime is handled on college campuses.

The proposed regulations would revamp the way college investigations would be handled and provide clear guidelines for how colleges should examine sexual harassment. In essence, the proposal would provide expanded fairness in investigations for victims and expanded consideration for the word of the accused.

Franco said, “I think my biggest concern about the new policies that Secretary DeVos is trying to have implemented is that they may lead to victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault becoming less likely to report those incidents.”

Student Yanet Suliman, who has yet to declare a major, said she takes night classes and often finds herself walking through the campus by herself.

“I never felt like I was going to be attacked or raped, but more police presence during the evening hours would make me more comfortable,” Suliman said. “I only started going here (CCC) this semester and from what I have seen, there aren’t many advertisements or information for students about sexual assault or rape.”

Suliman said when she was attending UC Berkeley, there were always flyers, advertisements and conversations around campus regarding sexual abuse.

“It’s a topic that needs to be addressed more within the campus community because of how important it is,” Suliman said.