Ursinus releases 2017 annual security and fire safety report

Photograph Courtesy of Grizzly Staff

Johnny Myers

jomyers@ursinus.edu

The Ursinus College 2017 Security and Fire Safety Report was released on Sunday, Oct. 1, and it revealed a number of interesting statistics on campus. According to the report, drug and liquor law violations are down from last year while sexual offenses, including rape and forcible fondling, have remained fairly consistent with six offenses of forcible fondling and thirteen charges of rape in 2015 and seven cases of forcible fondling and thirteen charges of rape in 2016.

The report was published in order to fulfill federal requirements put in place by the 1990 Campus Security Act, which aims to help students be more aware of crime statistics on college campuses. The Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act states that “All colleges and universities in the United States [are required] to report their crime statistics, campus security/law enforcement policies, and reporting procedures to the United States Department of Education and the campus community annually.”

John Bera, the new director of Campus Safety, believes that the statistics play a crucial role in helping him figure out what his office can best do to keep the campus safe.

“[These are] sustaining statistics for a college campus. [They keep] us fresh and [tell] us what we need to focus on and [how we should] create relationships with our student body,” said Bera.

Jessica Oros, Prevention and Advocacy Educator and Deputy Title IX Coordinator, thinks that the sexual assault statistics are an accurate reflection of the number of sexual assaults that happen on campus. “It’s important to remember that one in five women will be sexually assaulted on college campuses, and those numbers are underreported. We try to encourage people to report as much as possible. But I think the numbers here accurately reflect the numbers that are reported to us. Every person that reports to us are put into the report.”

Oros also believes our numbers are similar to other schools. “It depends on a lot of factors: what is our culture here, what is happening on campus. So you need to look into a lot of things. You can compare our data [online] with other schools in the region. Students know the culture here, and [should be] using [their] informed thoughts and opinions on our culture.”

McDaniel College, Swarthmore College, and Washington College, three similarly sized schools in the Centennial Conference reported comparable numbers. Swarthmore college reported 19 incidents of violence against women, while McDaniel and Washington college reported 16 and 9 instances respectively in 2016.

Oros also explained that high written reports of sexual assault are not necessarily bad for the school: “To me, I would rather have people come forward because they feel comfortable. Just because we’re not getting reports doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”

She continued, “High numbers have increased, and part of that is having the Peer Advocate program, a resource and an education tool for people on campus. They’ve been able to talk about [reports of sexual assault] and be a space for this situation, on and off-campus.”

Against intuition, an increase in numbers shows that more people are taking advantage of the resources on campus and demonstrates a healthy feedback loop between students and campus. “We’re finally able to talk about it,” Oros said.

She continued, “[It shows] people believe in our process and our system. They feel like this is a safe place to say ‘This is happening to me’ and will feel believed and that we have resources that are good for them.”

Oros compiles the report and puts forward actions to help campus be safer. “[The reports] inform what types of programs we’re doing and who we’re gearing programs toward. A lot of the programs we’ve been trying to work on this year are on bystander intervention. The Peer Advocates have brought this term called ‘upstander’ on campus because a lot of stories involved people being around an incident. Bystanders happen because people don’t know a situation is happening and don’t act.”

By reframing bystanders as “upstanders” Oros and the Peer Advocates hope to encourage students to take action and be aware of the situations that are occuring around them.

In addition to the Peer Advocate’s sexual assault prevention and advocacy programs, the college requires all first year students to attend an educational session on sexual misconduct in order to teach them about actively seeking consent, intervention, and how to report a crime if one occurs.

John Bera used the statistics published to move forward with Campus Safety. He said, “We keep on doing what we’re doing. We have a great relationship with community members. We want the officers and everyone to be approachable, myself included. We want people to come and talk to us, and report things to us, and not have to worry about being afraid of the safety officer. We’re not the police. We have a team leader who works nights and weekends, who designed patrol plans where each part of the campus is hit multiple times. We focus on social events and try to be cognizant and mobile.”

Students who would like to review the report should look for an email from Dean Kim Taylor in their inboxes. Additionally, the report is available to the public during normal business hours. Students who would like to report a sexual assault or another crime to the college can contact Campus Safety, the Residence Life Office, or the  Wellness Center. Wellness can be reached at 610-409-3100, Safety at 610-409-3333, and Residence Life at 610-409-3590.