Crime statistics at UConn likely show increase in reporting

The CT Mirror recently published an article regarding the increase in rape, aggravated assault, dating violence and stalking from the 2013-14 school year to last year at UConn. In all of these cases, figures at least doubled. For example, the number of rapes ostensibly committed two school years ago was 18, and now it is 43. 

There is the possibility that the actual instances of depraved behavior significantly increased over the past year or so, but the likelier conclusion to make is victims feel more comfortable with filing reports of these terrible incidents because the school is apparently more serious about believing them and taking their perpetrators to task, and that is to be applauded. 

The increase in reporting also bodes better for the university, who needs to disclose the statistics to qualify for Title IV student financial aid under the Clery Act. Also under this federal law, colleges run the risk of being fined for neither properly nor accurately disclosing the number of incidents; in 2013, Yale was fined $155,000 after an audit deemed its crime reporting unsatisfactory. The most a post-secondary educational institution has been fined for not complying enough with the Clery Act is $357,500, to Eastern Michigan University in 2008. 

It is possible UConn will bear some sort of financial burden for insufficient reporting in the past (though probably not as much as Eastern Michigan), as evidenced by very public occurrences like the Title IX trial that was settled last year. UConn audited itself with the assistance of a specialized firm, D. Stafford & Associates, in 2012. Following the audit, the school hired a full-time Clery Compliance Coordinator to make sure protocol is duly followed. 

Films like The Hunting Ground and university reports of increased campus safety have created conflicting views of the tragedy of campus sexual crimes. While Justice Department statistics show that from 1995-2013 there was a downward trend in acts of sexual assault and rape on college campuses, the metrics used are inherently faulty.

This starkly contrasts with the “1 in 5” figure of sexual victimization used by the White House and media to highlight the crisis of college sexual crimes. The difficulty in recording unreported sexual crimes means that drawing a firm conclusion in regards to the UConn study, either showing an increase in sexual crimes or in reporting, is not sound.

If students made targets of sexual abuse and harassment feel they can come forward and at least somewhat trust their university’s administration to appropriately address their situations, that speaks volumes on the progress the school is making as a bureaucracy and, most paramount, as a culture. While there is incentive in portraying the numbers as a result of increased reporting, the university’s chief objective cannot change. The administration should be doing everything possible to create the safest environment for students, and, if a sexual crime does occur, provide the strongest support and easiest method of reporting for the victims and witnesses.