Pennsylvania State University waited three months to publicly report a sexual attack on a female student, originally terming the incident an “assault on a female, ” the school’s Daily Collegian reported.
Campus security officials are defending that move, even though there was no direct violation of the federal Clery Act. That law requires universities to report crimes “considered by the campus to be a threat to students and employees” in a timely manner.
Since the Act doesn’t get more specific in its requirements, leaving interpretation on the fine points up to schools, “there is no lens to hold up to say whether they were wrong or right,” Jonathon Kassa, the executive director of Security on Campus, told the Daily Collegian. “The question is, does Penn State think [it] could have done better?”
Penn state officials do not think so, according to the paper. Police said they reported what they thought to be appropriate at the time, while they checked out whether allegations of sexual assault were true. Now criminal charges have been filed in the case against a former student.
“We don’t go out reporting sexual assaults that don’t occur,” Detective Bill Wager told the Daily Collegian. “We’re going to investigate it.”
In this situation, the victim’s blood-alcohol content was measured at .32, four times the usual legal limit for drivers, when authorities found her. She was at first unable to recall the events leading up to her hospitalization.
The Clery Act allows for discretionary compliance to balance a university’s public relations needs with the rights of students and faculty threatened by violent crime on campus. Stephen Janosik, leading Clery Act expert and associate professor at Virginia Tech, told the Daily Collegian, “When administrators are clear and honest and transparent—even if it’s not good news—in the intermediate term they gain more than they lose.”