As is the case on any urban campus, crime is a risk at Case Western Reserve University. At a university as diverse as CWRU, with people coming in from all parts of the world, having proper security measures for people who are not used to a city environment is a must.
The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) passed a resolution in April, asking the university to change several of their security policies. The resolution was a response to CWRU police’s failure to report information about the “Facebook killer” Steve Stephens’ presence near campus, and their inability to inform students about a kidnapping and rape incident in the parking lot of Cleveland Institute of Art.
“I would rather the administration side with the safety of students rather than the minimum requirements of the Clery Act,” said USG Vice President of Public Relations Tim Nicholas.
The Clery Act federally mandated security alerts, texts and email notifications that students receive when a crime occurs on campus. The law is named after the late Jeanne Clery, who was raped and murdered in her dorm at Lehigh University. Her parents lobbied Congress to pass the legislation in 1990, mandating colleges and universities to report four types of crime, according to the Clery Center. Criminal offenses include sexual assault, burglary, and car theft; hate crimes; violence against women, including domestic violence, dating violence and stalking; as well as disciplinary actions, which include weapons law violations, drug abuse violations and liquor law violations.
The United States Department of Education requires universities issue timely warnings when any crime under those four categories occurs near the university campus.
The USG resolution asks for several changes to the security alert system at CWRU, such as a request that the university consult with students to expand the geographical areas that are included in alerts, emphasize speed over accuracy when events pose a potential risk to students and include notifications for violent crimes.
The Division of Public Safety explained that CWRU established a new approach to security alerts when there is little or no information in response to meetings with students and university leaders.
The division stated, “Rather than wait for additional details or confirmation, we instead will issue an alert that notifies the community that we have received a report and are investigating—and then follow up with additional details as soon as possible.”
Nicholas said that CWRU will now look at social media posts and media reports when deciding whether or not they will send out a security alert. According to Nicholas, executive director of public safety Frank Demes said during a meeting with USG that there are governmental software programs that would allow security to monitor social media posts and media reports for possible threats.
The resolution also calls for the police to advertise their self-defense resources.
“Going forward the CWRU police are going to be working with us on submitting either a semesterly or bi semesterly safety update,” said Nicholas. “They’re also going to be scheduling regular rape defense training and personal defense training courses.”
Nicholas also said that he feels that the campuses of the Cleveland Institute of Music and Cleveland Institute of Art should be mandated areas of reporting for security alerts. He explained that the administration outlines how they send reports, but they don’t give the names of higher level administrators who make some of the decisions. The resolution asks CWRU to fully explain the decision-making process for alerting the community of non-immediate threats, and say which administrators are involved in the process.
“I do think that the administration truly generally does care,” said Nicholas. “However, I would like to see more transparency in the decision-making process behind the security alerts,”