Skewing safety numbers is despicable

By Editor in Chief

Dorm rooms in the Loop may be advertised to students as on-campus housing, but area colleges are quick to dissociate dorms from campuses when students are attacked.

Columbia is the only college among the four major Loop institutions—including Robert Morris, Roosevelt and DePaul universities—to consistently label crimes occurring in dorms, like the University Center, 525 S. State St., as on-campus, while the others either haven’t consistently counted dorms as on-campus or don’t report dorm crimes at all, which could make their campuses appear safer than they are.

As reported on the Front Page, The Jeanne Clery and Higher Education Opportunity Act, a federal mandate that requires colleges to compile security reports, specifies student-housing facilities as on-campus, even if they’re shared with other institutions or are commercial residences, like the UC or the 777 S. State St. dorms. Any institution governed by the act is violating federal law if it doesn’t report student-housing crimes as on-campus.

The issue here is the lack of clarity in every institution’s varying definition of what’s “on campus.”

Robert Morris has student housing options in the UC and Fornelli Hall, 55 E. Washington St., yet reported zero on-campus crimes from 2010 to 2012. Curious, because they reported three criminal offenses in their residence halls in the same time period.

Roosevelt only started reporting student housing crime numbers as on-campus in 2012, saying it added its new building, 425 S. Wabash Ave., that year and “geographical changes” newly defined the UC as on-campus. DePaul doesn’t include the UC in its on-campus crime statistics either and denotes which instances are DePaul-related in the numbers they do report.

Columbia is the only area college that consistently reports all of the crimes in its residence life buildings as on-campus.

Colleges and universities shouldn’t be reporting their crime statistics—which include sexual offenses, burglaries and liquor law violations—just because it’s the law. They should report any and all crimes because it’s the right thing to do. If administrators’ own children were staying in those dorms, they’d sure as hell want to know what’s going on inside them, and as a college student concerned about safety, I’d want to know if somebody has been sexually assaulted or burglarized in my building, possibly a few hundred feet away from my everyday living space, regardless of what school they attend.

The Clery Act was enacted to provide unequivocal safety information to students, not to lead them to believe expensive residence life halls are safer than they actually are. It’s noble of Columbia’s Office of Safety & Security to take that mission seriously, and Roosevelt also gets a pat on the back for its full compliance this year. But DePaul and especially Robert Morris need to adjust their record keeping.

Colleges across the country, not just in the South Loop, have not only a federal duty but a moral obligation to their students to report accurate, inclusive safety numbers. Anything other than full cooperation with the Clery Act is not only a federal crime, it’s a moral disgrace.