19-year-old Jeanne Clery was raped and murdered in her college dorm room in 1986. At the time, there were no rules that required universities to inform students of incidents like this on campus. From then on out, the Clery Act has required universities to send out a campus wide notification when there is an immediate threat to the student body or campus.
According to Wittenberg Police Department Chief Jim Hutchins, there are two types of messages that universities can send out: timely warnings and immediate notifications.
“Timely warnings are only for Clery crimes and have three requirements,” Hutchins said. “A reportable crime, reportable geography and the crime needs to present a serious or continuous threat to the campus or student body.”
On the other hand, an immediate notification is an alert of a threat to campus or the student body, whether its a Clery crime or not.
Before sending out a Witt Alert, Chief Hutchins meets with Dean of Students, Casey Gill, to decide what to send out and to determine if the community is ultimately in danger.
“We are obligated under law to report it, but we are also bound by law to keep the identity of those involved safe,” Gill said.
As of now, students are strongly encouraged to sign up to receive text message alerts during their First Year Seminar class. But, if students wish to opt-out of this service, they can. Witt is currently working to change this. There’s a team in place that is working on making the Witt Alerts an opt-out program meaning, all students are either automatically signed up or required to sign up to receive Witt Alerts, instead of deciding whether they want to or not.
“Hopefully we should have that in place by the end of the year,” Gill said.
During the 2017-2018 calendar year, Witt had a total of 27 incidents of misconduct reported. These incidents can range from sexual assault to breaking and entering. So far, Witt has already had more than 15 reported incidents, hence the increased number of Witt Alerts.
Both Gill and Hutchins reiterated that this campus is plenty safe, but that there’s just more crime happening and being reported on campus.
“If you see something, say something,” Gill said. “Students shouldn’t assume that we have all the knowledge about crimes on campus and if they see something then they should inform us.”
In fact, the most recent alert, sent out on October 20, was because a student sent in a picture to the police department, alerting them to dangerous activity on campus. The more crimes that are reported, the greater the ability Title IX and the police department have to solve those issues.
This is particularly important in regard to reports of sexual assault or rape. There have been an increase in the number of reported accounts of sexual assault all across the country since July. While there is no definitive explanation for this increase, it is speculated that this could be a result of the recent public dialogue in the media. The Kavanaugh hearings have helped victims to realize that they have more of an ability to report these issues than they originally thought.
Whether or not the university does an in-depth investigation of a sexual assault case depends on the information that is given to them. If the informant is able to give any kind of identifying information and gives the university the okay to move forward, then Title IX and Witt PD will move forward.
“If we have a victim who wants to proceed with an investigation then we will follow them all the way to the end,” Hutchins said.
The Title IX process allows for the informant to have full control over what happens after they report the issue. If the informant decides not to give identifying information or doesn’t want to move forward with an investigation, the university will make sure that you get the help you need. Whether that be regular counseling or talking to a peer advocate in the Womyn’s Center, Witt will make sure you get the help you need.