IX THE HARD WAY: Required sexual assault records not maintained by UVU

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Reporting by | Brigham Berthold and McKhelyn Jones
Green Light Project

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rae asked The Review to refer to them in the non-binary “they.”

Rae entered their first semester at UVU with the excitement of starting their freshman year. Nearly one month after Rae began classes, they were raped.

Common among cases of rape, Rae knew their assailant. On a typical September night, Rae went to a party at a friend’s home. Their assailant arrived uninvited, but his presence was accepted. The group began drinking, the party died down and Rae’s friends fell asleep. That was when Rae was raped.

Before the incident, Rae had been involved in multiple student organizations and registered for a full course load of 15 credits. As a student, they became involved in efforts to increase awareness and prevention of sexual assault on campus.

Through their involvement, Rae had an unparalleled understanding of the help available. The event that occurred that September night made Rae unable to leave the couch, let alone drag themselves through the process of reporting.

Rae’s employment status, academic work and social life suffered in the wake of the trauma. Attempting to recover any part of their life, Rae reached out to trusted administrators for help — specifically, administrators Rae had worked with to increase the awareness of sexual assault. According to Rae, at least three attempts to schedule an appointment with an administrator to discuss their assault were canceled. Rae shared their situation with five UVU administrators and their resident advisor.

“They had the knowledge but they did nothing about it,” Rae said.

Unable to continue with the semester, Rae dropped out.

Sexual assault on campus is a delicate subject for everyone involved. Victims are reluctant to relive trauma, law enforcement agencies are either unable or unwilling to disclose specific information, universities want to protect their reputation and the public wants to understand the risks of campus life.

As of 1990, universities that receive federal funding are required to track all crime on campus. The law is called The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, or The Clery Act. Crimes include everything from murder and burglary to sexual harassment and rape. Each crime is tallied and added to an official report known as the Clery report. It is intended to inform the student body of potential hazards associated with campus life, including sexual crime.

“The Clery report gives the reader information on how safe the university is based on the crimes and other incidents that it tracks,” said John Brewer, former chief of UVU police. “It can be very helpful when students’ parents or others are helping the student decide where to attend college.”

Clery regulation “requires colleges and universities, both public and private, participating in federal student aid programs to disclose campus safety information, and imposes certain basic requirements for handling incidents of sexual violence and emergency situations,” said Daniel Carter via email. Carter is a campus security consultant and helped draft legislation for Title IX and the Clery Act.

The UVU Police Department is responsible for the compiling of all crimes included on the annual Clery report. All sexual crimes are consolidated between the Office of Student Conduct, university police department and the Title IX Office.

Title IX works to prohibit sex discrimination and to remedy hostile environments in educational institutions.

The 2015 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, conducted by the Association of American Universities, surveyed 150,000 students found: “Overall, 11.7 percent of student respondents across 27 universities reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation since they enrolled at their university. The incidence among female undergraduate student respondents was 23.1 percent, including 10.8 percent who experienced penetration.”

Anyone can look up the Clery numbers for public and private universities across the country through the Department of Education’s Campus Safety and Security website. 

In 2015, the University of Utah reported a total enrollment of 31,592 students. The same year UVU reported a total enrollment of 33,211. Examination of the Clery reports for both universities, focusing on reports of rape and fondling shows a significant difference in numbers.

* “The rape in 2015 is inaccurate,” said UVU police Lt. Kelly Liddiard. “This was a result of a miscommunication by Title IX.”

“I’m surprised UVU is reporting zeroes and ones,” said sophomore Brooklynn Moir. “There’s no way in hell that is accurate, because it happens every single day.”

According to a Department of Justice report, 80 percent of female students ages 18-24, do not report incidents of sexual assault to law enforcement. Reasons for not reporting include: believed it was a personal matter (26 percent); fear of reprisal (20 percent); believed it was not important enough to report (12 percent); did not want to get the perpetrator in trouble (10 percent); and believed police would not or could not help (9 percent).

Brewer said the reasons for low numbers on the Clery report are due, in part, to UVU having good students.

“I didn’t call the police for two reasons,” said Rae. “We were drinking, under-aged, and my assailant was about to join the military. I didn’t want to explain that to the police and I didn’t want to ruin my assailant’s life.”

Students might keep their experiences secret for multiple reasons. Citing the Department of Justice report, of those who do not report being victimized, 31 percent of female undergraduate victims listed their reason for not reporting as ‘other.’

UVU campus does appear to be safer than other campuses in Utah. Contributing factors as to why UVU’s campus has low numbers are the lack of dorms, the absence of Greek life, and a large homogenous religious community.

A sexual assault survivor, who asked to be referred to as Jane, took issue with the culture.

“Everyone always warns you about walking alone at night and creepy dudes,” said Jane. “They don’t warn you about the returned missionary who’s supposed to be the epitome of what you’re supposed to look for in a man.”

Victims of sexual violence at UVU do have options for reporting. Those options include Student Health Services, the Office of the Dean of Students, the Ombudsman, university police, Title IX office or any official representative or employee of the university.

University police claims they screen people who report crimes, including those of sexual violence.

“There has to be some kind of screening process to make sure it’s not a false report,” said Brewer.

“We’ve had people report rape, and after investigating and interviewing we find out there’s not enough to support their claim,” said Liddiard. “We re-interview them and, come to find out, it was a false report. I’ve had them to get out of tests, because they didn’t get their assignment done, to get the attention of someone.”

Falsely reporting sexual crime is not common. A study conducted by the American Prosecutors Research Institute found a consistent ratio of between 2 and 8 percent of sexual assault reports are false.

“I’m way more likely to trust a school that has a lot of sexual assaults reported, because I don’t feel that it makes them less safe,” said Jane. “It makes me feel like they take them seriously because sexual assault is going to happen whether or not you report it.”

According to UVU’s 2016 annual security report, faculty, staff and student employees are required to report sexual misconduct involving anyone within the campus community to the Title IX coordinator.

All campus representatives, including those in the office of the Dean of Students, direct victims to the Title IX office before a victim can make a report. According to Ashley Larsen, associate dean of students, reports are halted and victims are deferred to Title IX to help them avoid reliving a traumatic experience multiple times.

“I am a mandatory reporter,” said Maren Turnidge, UVU’s Ombudsman. “That means, if a student tells me anything related to a sexual incident on campus, I immediately report it to Title IX. I then refer the student to Title IX directly. I cannot make anyone go see Title IX or the police department. I try to encourage students to give their report to the best office, rather than having them report it twice.”

Student Health Services offers mental health support to all students. UVU crisis services are available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday, by request.

If a student is in crisis and needs to see a therapist immediately, health services will accommodate them. “If [a current registered student] uses language of, ‘I’m in crisis’, ‘or this is a crisis.’ They don’t have to go into any details,” said J.C. Graham, director of UVU Crisis Services.

An initial visit for crisis therapy does not necessarily guarantee students on-going therapy. Students requiring continuing counseling may be put on the waitlist or they may be referred to community providers.

Graham explained different offices on campus are working together. For example, Title IX may refer a person to crisis services.

“Often, someone from the Title IX office will coordinate with the individual they are talking to, [asking if they would like to talk to someone],” said Graham. “They even call and ask if they can walk the person down. It’s not necessarily a documented process. It’s a soft handoff. Getting people connected to the resources.”

The Review requested all records disclosing the number of Title IX complaints, records showing how many complainants filed formal reports and records of allegations that were substantial enough to result in the university punishing the perpetrator. University punishments are referred to as sanctions.

According to UVU’s response to the initial records request, records are not maintained because they are not legally required to do so, “…the University does not have responsive records and is not obligated to create a record or to compile, format, manipulate, package, summarize, or tailor information.”

Read the request and response here.

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The university denied the subsequent request, citing a lack of records, “The University does not have the specific records you requested, and therefore your request can not be fulfilled and is denied.”

If the university fails to maintain records, it is not compliant with Clery Act regulations.

Read the request and response here

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According to UVU Policy 407, “Clery Act: Campus Safety and Security,” the university is required to maintain statistics of criminal incidents reported on campus, including sexual assault offenses — forcible and non-forcible — to be included in its annual security report. The policy requires statistics be recorded and maintained for a period of three years after the most recent annual security report.

In response to the second request, the university elected to provide records they believed were similar enough to those requested. The records showed instances where students were sanctioned for sexual misconduct. The response stated, “while some sanctioned misconduct may be considered criminal, it does not mean that separate criminal charges were filed.”

The university policy on conduct, and any sanctions imposed by virtue of that policy, do not equate to a criminal investigation, nor are sanctions equal to criminal charges.

According to the records provided by the university, five sanctions were formalized in 2015, two in 2014 and five in 2013.

Despite the request for records having been directed to the Title IX Office, the records provided were produced by the Office of Student Conduct.

“All crimes are reported to the Department of Education, including sexual crimes,” said Liddiard. “In 2015, there were seven reported crimes which were determined to be unfounded. Whether any of those unfounded crimes were sexual in nature — I don’t know.”

According to Liddiard, unfounded crimes — reported crimes determined to lack evidence —  have not been required to be listed on the Clery report until 2015.

The most recent annual security report, published by UVU in 2016, listed all criminal acts relevant to UVU for the previous three years. The report shows prior reported data for 2015, 2014 and 2013.

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According to the national Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting, “If a campus security authority receives a report, he or she must include it as a crime report using whatever procedure has been specified by your institution.”

UVU policy 407 requires the Title IX coordinator, or a designee, provide UVU police statistics about sexual misconduct for the annual security report.

The handbook continues, “What you must include, therefore, are statistics based on reports of alleged criminal incidents. It is not necessary for the crime to have been investigated by the police or a campus security authority, nor must a finding of guilt or responsibility be made to include the reported crime in your institution’s crime statistics.”

Independent student research — conducted by students in UVU’s criminal justice program and published during the fall 2016 semester — sought to identify how often crimes of sexual assault were perpetrated against women while enrolled as students at UVU.

Of 75 total respondents, 25 said they were assaulted. Of those 25, seven claimed to have reported their assault and 18 claimed to have not reported the crime. No information was gathered to identify to whom reports were made. Despite the limitations of this research, it serves to reinforce popular opinion among students that Clery numbers are not an accurate representation of how many sexual assaults occur.

The Title IX coordinator is charged with investigating reports of concern. Victim support is not the primary role of Title IX.

“Title IX is more concerned with compliance than victim care and advocacy,” said Alexis Palmer, dean of students at UVU.

In addition to sexual misconduct on campus, UVU’s Title IX coordinator is responsible for all affirmative action and equal opportunity issues.

With a student population of 34,977 in 2016, UVU’s Title IX team consists of one director, two investigators and one administrative assistant.

BYU had a reported student population of 33,363 in 2016. The number of dedicated Title IX personnel employed by BYU comprises one director, two full-time investigators, a graduate intern and a receptionist.

The newer housing additions near campus will result in more reported instances of sexual misconduct according to Palmer. Student enrollment is projected to reach 45,000 by the year 2026.

UVU does not have a victim advocate on campus because campuses are not legally required to have one.

Palmer has written two grant requests to the Office for Victims of Crime with the specific intent to fund victim’s advocacy on campus. Both requests were denied.

There is no guarantee of funds as UVU’s PBA process necessitates the reallocation of funds from another area on campus. Palmer has determined to pursue funding via the university’s planning, budgeting and assessment process.