Thank goodness for the Clery Act, the federal law that forces educational institutions to track and report sex crimes on campus. It’s blown some fresh air into some very stuffy corridors. And compelled us all to take a hard look at what actually goes on in our supposedly safe, high-toned precincts.
The latest, as reported by VPR, is that reports of sexual assaults “saw dramatic increases” in 2013 at Dartmouth and Middlebury Colleges.
Said institutions reacted, sadly, by blaming the messenger. Middlebury:
“While these numbers are a source of real concern, and we will remain vigilant in enforcing our policies, it is also possible that these numbers reflect a greater willingness among individuals to report violations,” said Shirley M. Collado, dean of the College.
And even worse, from Dartmouth:
We believe that the increase in the number of reports is a result of Dartmouth’s efforts to strengthen a climate of reporting rather than an increase in the actual incidence of sex offenses.
“It is possible.” “We believe.” No evidence offered, just a very convenient belief.
Now, I’m sure they’re right, at least in part. But it’s still a disappointing reaction. Especially from Dartmouth, which has much to atone for in these areas.
A little free PR advice. Here’s what you SHOULD have said.
We view this news with dismay. We believe that the increase may be caused, in part, by an improved climate of reporting; but any incidence of sexual assault on our campus is unacceptable.
We have tried to create an atmosphere in which our students learn that sexual assault is unacceptable, and in which they feel absolutely free to report any assaults. Clearly, we have more work to do.
There. Was that so hard?