The University of Connecticut is releasing two reports this week that detail its response to reports of criminal activity, sexual violence, and other issues it monitors to ensure the safety of its campus communities.
The first, the Clery Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, is required annually from all U.S. universities that receive federal financial aid funds. It includes data about certain crimes identified by the Clery Act, including violations of the Violence Against Women Act; arrests and disciplinary referrals for drug and alcohol violations; and hate crimes reported in the previous calendar year on property that UConn owns or controls and on public property within or immediately adjacent to campus.
Additionally, the report includes a comprehensive overview of safety policies and prevention programs available to the campus community. It is compiled by the UConn Division of Public Safety.
The second report, compiled by UConn’s Office of Institutional Equity (OIE), is a state-mandated annual overview in which all Connecticut colleges and universities must outline their policies and data on sexual assault, stalking, and intimate partner violence. It captures a wider range of data in those categories than the Clery report because the data collected is not limited to incidents reported to have occurred on UConn property, and because it includes incidents reported even in the absence of a UConn connection.
Some categories listed in the Clery and OIE reports might appear to capture data about the same kinds of crimes and incidents, including some regarding sexual assault and related crimes. However, the numbers will differ between the two reports because of the differences in how the incidents are defined, and the locations for which incidents must be captured.
2020 Clery Annual Security and Fire Safety Report
UConn is posting the report for calendar year 2020 on its website and distributing the link electronically in compliance with federal and state law, and in the interest of informing all enrolled students, faculty, and staff on this important subject.
The coronavirus pandemic significantly decreased the on-campus population at Storrs and the regional campuses for much of the 2020 calendar year, and the number of incidents reported during that period decreased as a result. Previous figures from 2019 and next year’s 2021 figures are expected to be more representative of a typical year.
The Clery report’s data includes reports from crime victims directly to UConn Police, along with information that comes to the attention of campus officials beyond law enforcement.
Those officials, known as “campus security authorities,” currently comprise nearly 1,200 people who regularly interact with students in their roles as resident assistants, coaches, faculty advisers, and other on-campus authorities.
The university has significantly increased training for those officials so that they better understand what they are legally required to report and the proper way to report it. In the case of sexual violence crimes, UConn’s Clery numbers reflect a large amount of input from campus security authorities, along with significant outreach services university-wide to encourage reporting of this traditionally underreported crime.
Of the seven sexual assaults reported at Storrs in calendar year 2020 – down from nine one year earlier – police received four reports directly from individuals. The rest were reported by campus security authorities, including Residential Life and Student Affairs, to be included in the Clery report.
UConn takes an expansive view on what is included in the data by counting all sexual assault reports received in a given year, regardless of the level of detail known to the university; regardless of when the assault is reported to have occurred; and even when the report comes from a third party in the absence of a complainant.
This is an important part of UConn’s commitment to creating and maintaining a campus free from all forms of sexual harassment, sexual violence, relationship violence, and stalking.
Under a University policy adopted in 2012, nearly all UConn employees are “responsible employees” to report sexual assault. Because that policy is specific to UConn and other institutions might take different approaches, comparisons are difficult to make against other universities whose policies are not as robust and whose reporting requirements are not as stringent.
The University provides information online for all individuals impacted by sexual assault to receive support and file reports, including through its website on sexual violence, relationship violence, and stalking awareness.
UConn’s new Clery report for calendar year 2020 also captures data on reports of domestic violence, which is defined differently in Connecticut than in many other states. The 2020 figure, six events reported, is down from 14 in 2019. As with other aspects of the report, the drop in on-campus population due to the pandemic was a factor in the decrease.
Before June 30, 2019, Connecticut’s domestic violence laws afforded protection to any people who lived together, including college roommates in non-romantic relationships, but the law was changed starting July 1, 2019, to include two exemptions.
The first exception clarified that platonic roommates are not subject to mandatory arrest when they who are attending higher education and live on campus or in off-campus housing that is owned, managed, or operated by the institution.
The second exception extends to platonic roommates anywhere who are making payments pursuant to a written or oral rental agreement, also excluding them from mandatory arrest. The secondary exception would apply to sororities or fraternities who are owned and operated by individual organizations.
However, roommates who are in a dating relationship, married, formerly married, related by blood or by marriage, or who have a child in common are still subject to the family violence mandatory arrest laws.
In reviewing Clery data, it is also vital to understand that the ways in which domestic violence is defined and application of the applicable laws vary from state to state, making comparisons to other states’ institutions invalid.
For instance, UConn’s domestic violence reporting process captures figures for the number of victims, not the number of incidents. Therefore, if two people involved in one incident both report it separately, the same incident appears twice in the data as two separate offenses if both individuals are the victim of a crime. One overall event can generate two or more statistics.
Some reports also come after bystanders and other people contact police, saying they are concerned about domestic altercations they believed they witnessed, overheard, or otherwise learned about as friends or neighbors of other students.
University officials say that indicates growing awareness perhaps prompted by UConn’s bystander intervention programs, which help increase awareness of sexual violence on campus and empower students to be effective, proactive bystanders.
One such program, Protect Our Pack, is presented to all incoming first-year and transfer students – in addition to resident assistants – at the Storrs and regional campuses during fall orientation as students settle in for the new academic year.
In addition, UConn Police also offers many initiatives tackling difficult conversations about stalking, intimate partner violence, consent, and effective communications. The programs are offered throughout the year to students at all academic levels.
Clery data also indicates that police made 10 arrests at Storrs last year for drug abuse violations; three arrests for liquor law violations; and received six reports of stalking incidents that met Clery reportable guidelines.
Like the other categories, they were affected by the significant reduction in on-campus population due to pandemic restrictions.
2020 UConn Report Pursuant to State Statute Section 10a-55m
In addition to the annual federally mandated Clery report, UConn also submits to the Connecticut General Assembly a yearly report specifically on sexual violence policies and data.
Figures in this report exceed those in the Clery data because it captures all incidents disclosed to UConn, regardless of on or off-campus location or the year in which they are reported to have occurred.
UConn closed its residence halls and most on-campus offices in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and reopened them in August 2020 at greatly reduced capacity.
Letissa Reid, UConn’s Associate Vice President for Institutional Equity and Title IX Coordinator, said that while the report’s figures include incidents reported in the residence halls, the data also captures disclosures of concerning off-campus incidents in private homes or elsewhere during the remote learning period, and/or incidents reported in early 2020 prior to the transition to remote learning.
“Following national trends during the pandemic, we know that for some students, learning at home posed challenges that included incidents related to dating and domestic violence,” Reid says. “We continue to promote awareness among our students and employees to inform them that resources and support are available even when the reported conduct occurred beyond campus boundaries.”
The report indicates that OIE received 80 reports in 2020 of sexual assault, of which 34 were reported to have occurred during the calendar year. The University’s definition of sexual assault is broad and can include incidents such as unwanted touching (sexual contact) along with more physically invasive offenses categorized in criminal law.
The sexual assault disclosure numbers also can include reports of incidents from many years ago, including childhood abuse – all of which helps the university provide appropriate, compassionate, and trauma-informed services.
Among the 80 reports of sexual assault, 22 of the respondents were identified as being connected to UConn; 11 of the reports came in anonymously or confidentially; and in three of those cases, the reported victim chose to participate in a University investigation.
Those who report an incident can opt to participate in a University investigation at a later time, not only at the time they make a report. Since so many people were studying and working off campus in 2020 due to the pandemic, it remains possible that some who filed reports during that time might later decide to participate in an investigation upon their return to campus.
In general, the University takes steps to follow the wishes of the victim whenever possible and not investigate unless that individual wants the University to do so. Only in limited circumstances will the University proceed with an investigation against a victim’s wishes.
Factors considered within this determination include the age of the victim, whether there is evidence of a pattern of misconduct, the severity of the misconduct, and whether there is a safety risk to the victim or the campus community.
In matters where an investigation does not occur, the University may still take responsive or preventative actions, such as meetings with the alleged respondent and/or additional training and prevention work with impacted communities; these responsive steps also may be taken in matters where policy violations have not been found.
UConn’s OIE report for 2020 also includes 16 reported incidents of stalking, of which 13 occurred in 2020. In eight of the stalking cases, the respondent was identified as being connected to UConn. None of the reported victims chose to participate in a university investigation at the time of their reports, but retain the right to request an investigation now or later.
A total of 70 cases of intimate partner violence (IPV) were reported, including 45 reported to have occurred in 2020. In 20 of the intimate partner violence cases, the respondent was identified as being connected to UConn; and in one of those cases, the reported victim chose to participate in a University investigation.
IPV was the only category in which reports increased between 2019 and 2020 despite the pandemic, with this year’s figure of 70 reports slightly higher than last year’s 67.
It mirrors national trends in which intimate partner violence increased as more people were isolated in their homes with others, might have been disconnected from other resources and forms of assistance, and under strain due to the pandemic.
In addition to providing data, the OIE report outlines more than 300 awareness and prevention campaigns during the year. They include the “Protect Our Pack” bystander intervention training provided at orientation; UConn’s Violence Against Women Prevention Program (VAWPP) courses; the widespread training provided to employees; and many others.
UConn also updated its Policy against Discrimination, Harassment, and Related Interpersonal Violence in August 2020.
The updates added a definition of Prohibited Conduct called “Title IX Sexual Harassment” and a new category of employees in the Women’s Center and other UConn cultural centers and Ombuds Office who are generally exempt from reporting prohibited conduct to OIE called “Exempt Employees.”
Through this exemption, students and employees who are impacted by sexual misconduct have more options to seek help through those centers without obligating staff in those areas to report to OIE, unless requested to do so by the impacted student or employee.