University officials cite insufficient information to file police report

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A student walks alone near Thatcher Hall on the west side of campus. Alleged sexual assaults were reported in September and October at Shepherd University.

(THE PICKET) – Shepherd University police don’t have enough information to a file a police report on an alleged sexual assault on campus the weekend of Sept. 26. Without that police report, the alleged assault will not be reported to the university crime log required under the Clery Act, officials said.

Alan Perduel
Alan Perdue

“So we don’t have a basis for entering something in the crime log because we don’t have a report,” said Alan Perdue, general counsel to the office of the president. “What we were given in that extremely thin initial statement was the total sum of what we were able to get.”

“We don’t really have information to work from that would be sufficient to qualify it as something that would go in the crime log,” Perdue said. “We don’t have credible information to work from. All we have is this very thin third-hand communication.”

Despite the lack of information, students were notified of the alleged assault in a campus-wide email on Sept.27. A second alleged sexual assault occurred on campus Oct. 27. No information has been released on that incident either, and Shepherd University Police Chief John McAvoy has declined to provide additional details.

“We cannot provide any comment or update on either matter at this time,” McAvoy said in an Oct. 27 email response after several attempts to reach him. Perdue also has declined to release information on the incident.

The Clery Act requires all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to keep and disclose information about certain crime on and near their campuses. These reports are filed annually with the U.S. Department of Education and available to the public. Universities that fail to comply can be fined up to $27,500 per incident and can lose their Title IX funding.

In a time of budget cuts and efforts to retain enrolled students, universities nationwide are sensitive about their reputations and don’t want to appear to have unsafe campuses or to be soft on campus crime. A most recent example of this is the University of Virginia, which experienced several well-publicized incidents of sexual assaults last year. According to The Washington Post, University officials enlisted the assistance of Virginia’s governor and two U.S. senators in an effort to soften criticism of its handling of the assaults in a U.S. Department of Education report.

Shepherd’s Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report 2014 was released in October. University police reported seven forcible sexual offenses – six in residence halls and one on public property, according to the report. While Perdue said that the University’s Clery crime log is accessible to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. he did not produce a copy of it to The Picket and instead directed reporters to the Shepherd University Police Department website.

Shepherd has had three Title IX Coordinators over the past 10 years, Perdue said.

Anne Lewin, a graduate assistant, has recently been named to this post.

“Our efforts to update this information around the campus are a work in progress,” Perdue said.

Lewin was not available for comment Friday.

Rape, sexual assault and gender related violence do not have to be reported to police, students can file complaints directly with the schools Title IX coordinator, said Annie Clark, executive director and co-founder of End Rape on Campus.

End Rape on Campus is a national organization that is working to end campus and gender-related violence with three approaches: direct support for survivors and their communities; prevention through education; and policy reform at the campus, local, state, and federal levels.

EROC has aided students across the U.S. in filing Title IX and Clery Act complaints, according to their website.

“If there is a crime on campus deemed a threat to the university, schools are required to issue a timely warning under the Clery Act,” said Annie Clark, executive director and co-founder of End Rape on Campus. “Students have the right to know what is happening on their campus.”

Todd Bowman is a staff writer for The Picket. He can be reached at tbowma04@rams.shepherd.edu or on Twitter @todd_bowman87.

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