Oklahoma State demonstrates why universities shouldn’t handle sexual assault claims

Pop quiz: should you tell the police if you think someone is responsible for a pattern of sexual assaults?Well, that ain't how they do things down Oklahoma State way.In the past, I've made the point that universities shouldn't be adjudicating sexual assault claims. Both because they're bad at it and because they can't actually take these people off the streets.Now, Oklahoma State has provided an object lesson, by showing how much can go wrong when you let a bunch of amateur investigators pretend to do the jobs of police and courts.Consider what happened at Oklahoma State after five different students reported sexual assaults by the same alleged perpetrator.You would assume that a disciplinary committee at an institution faced with multiple reports of sexual assault by one person might say to themselves, "Gee, the training video we watched didn't really prepare us to do the proper investigation of sexual assault at this scale, so maybe we ought to call police."Surely a bunch of amateurs, with no authority to subpoena, no ability to collect or test forensics--certainly they wouldn't attempt to identify and punish a possible serial attacker, would they?

How college newspapers covered the annual Clery campus safety report

Most college students understand the level of safety on their campus, but sometimes they can get a little too comfortable.A much needed reminder of campus safety comes this week, as this past Monday was the deadline for colleges to release their annual crime report, as required by the Jeanne Clery Act. All colleges that except federal money, which includes almost all public and private colleges that accept federal financial aid, are required to release this report that chronicles the last three years’ worth of serious crime by category. The act is named after a Lehigh University student who was raped and murdered in her dorm room.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: You can’t play by the rules — or know when to break them — without a copy of the rulebook

To the list of those routine-but-essential tasks that belong on every to-do list -- see the dentist, change your smoke-alarm batteries, rotate your tires -- add this one: Get a copy of your school or college's rulebook -- and read it.Each fall, returning students are ambushed by policy changes that, with remarkable frequency, tend to get enacted during the summer term when scrutiny by the public is at its lowest.For instance, the University of North Carolina is among the schools that, in compliance with a recent federal mandate, rewrote its disciplinary standards to make it easier to prove a claim of sexual assault.Of far lesser consequence, dorm residents at Northwestern University recently learned that the fee for lost keys will nearly triple, to $200, for a third offense.No matter the stakes, it's important for campus journalists to keep current on rule changes enacted by campus trustees or governing boards -- especially those that impact the student media.

Why Penn State’s (many) problems may include a Clery Act crime reporting violation

To the extent that it is understood at all, the Jeanne Clery Act is known as the federal law that requires college police to tally and disclose reported crimes on their campuses.So it may seen anomalous that a crime not reported to police at all -- the alleged sexual assault of a 10-year-old boy in the football team showers at Penn State -- might be the basis of a Clery Act violation.To understand why requires understanding the scope of a university's disclosure obligations under Clery -- which, it seems increasingly clear, many colleges and universities thsmselves either fail to understand or affirmatively ignore.The U.S.

Marshall student journalists honored for persistence in pursuing police records

Two college journalists at West Virginia's Marshall University have won the Society of Professional Journalists' prestigious "Sunshine Award" for exposing the existence of an off-the-books set of campus police reports separate from the ones made available for public review.The SPJ will recognize Samantha Turley and Marcus Constantino for a series of October 2010 stories in their campus newspaper, The Parthenon, documenting that the Marshall University Police Department selectively withheld some crime reports from a log provided to student journalists.The existence of "off-the-books crimes" came to light as journalists from The Parthenon inquired into widespread rumors about a sexual assault in a campus dorm (a complaint that police ultimately decided they lacked the evidence to pursue). Any report to police of a serious crime such as rape should show up in the daily crime log available for public inspection, but the log provided to The Parthenon made no mention of it.Turley and Constantino will receive their award at SPJ's national convention Sept.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: No campus crime should go uncounted

Hundreds of angry students at Dickinson College recently marched on the administration building to demand greater public disclosure of sexual assaults at the 2,300-student private institution near Harrisburg, Pa.The students obtained some concessions -- their administrators agreed to more readily activate the campus-wide alert system upon learning of sex crimes -- and they also spotlighted what Pennsylvania's Patriot-News called the "top-secret justice system" that enables colleges to minimize public disclosure of campus offenses, even violent ones.In an extensive investigation published last year, the Center for Public Integrity analyzed the annual crime statistics filed with the U.S.