Alleging that Yale may be underreporting the number of crimes occurring on campus, especially sexual assaults, a non-profit advocacy group has asked the Department of Education to come to campus and investigate.
S. Daniel Carter, the senior vice president of Security on Campus Inc., said Yale does not collect crime data from all the sources it is required to under the law. Carter stopped short of accusing Yale of actively trying to defy the law, but said Yale’s lax reporting standards are “very suspicious.”
“We’re concerned that there’s a false impression of how safe the campus is, especially when you have statements in admissions materials that they have the second lowest crime ranking in the Ivy League,” Carter said. “It strains credibility that this is just an accident.”
Under the Jeanne Clery Act — which mandates that colleges report their crime statistics to the DOE — any official with significant responsibility for student activities should be polled when collecting crime data. Carter said Yale only collects data from police, basing his claims on an article in the Yale Alumni Magazine, which investigated the University’s handling of sexual harassment cases.
Sex crimes — which tend to be reported to deans of students or other officials rather than police — are especially likely to be underreported if only police statistics are used, Carter said. Yale reported only five sex offenses on or nearby campus from 2000 to 2002, the lowest number in the Ivy League.
University Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said she believes Yale’s crime numbers are accurate. But last semester — after the YAM began asking questions about Yale’s crime data collection — the University sent out a form for the first time, giving relevant officials an easy way to report crimes, she said.
“We are really redoubling our efforts to determine if we’ve missed anything,” Highsmith said. “I have not recovered any crimes yet through that process that had not already been counted.”
Before last semester, officials were sent a letter each year telling them to urge students to report crimes to police. But the letter did not remind officials that they themselves were responsible for informing the University of any crimes they became aware of, Highsmith said.
The letters were sent to the deans of student affairs and deans of Yale College and the graduate and professional schools, Highsmith said. Residential college deans and masters, the Title IX coordinators, the Executive Committee, and the Sexual Harassment Grievance Board were also mailed the form, she said.
But Carter said Yale’s new reporting system gets the University closer to compliance with the Clery Act, but that its previous crime data reports are still invalid and must be updated.
Kathryn Johnson ’06, a coordinator for Rape and Sexual Violence Prevention, said she believes Yale’s reporting of sexual assaults is misleading, and that the University is doing a bad job collecting statistics on assaults. Johnson said her group has complained to Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg that the Sexual Harassment Grievance Board — one of the bodies that deals with reports of sexual assault on campus — does not keep adequate statistics.
Physics professor Peter Parker, the chair of the Sexual Harassment Grievance Board, said standards about what the board must report are not always clear. The board does report formal grievances, Parker said, but records are not always kept for the board’s more informal actions.
“That’s something that’s in a state of flux,” Parker said. “It is undoubtedly something that will be addressed in a clearer way or in a most specific way.”
Yale College Associate Dean Jill Cutler said none of the incidents reported to her as the college’s Title IX coordinator have fit the Clery Act statute. But, in her role of secretary of Ex-Comm, she said she has consistently reported crime to the Secretary’s office, and her reports have accurately been added into the yearly crime reports.
Yale could face a significant civil penalty– tens of thousands of dollars for each crime that went unreported — if it was found to have violated the Clery Act, Carter said. The DOE gave Carter notice last week that his letter had been received, but he said he has gotten no word on what action the department will take.