Assaulted students say police are no shows

MIXED MESSAGES — Southwestern College crime reports have substancial inconsistencies, such as these 2011-13 reports. Some serious campus crimes were not reported.  Lina Chankar/Staff

MIXED MESSAGES — Southwestern College crime reports have substancial inconsistencies, such as these 2011-13 reports. Some serious campus crimes were not reported.

College officials are not keeping their promises to provide campus police escorts to students who request them and do little to punish students who verbally, physically or sexually harass female students, according to Southwestern College crime victims and faculty safety advocates. Campus crime reports, including a federal report required for financial aid, have discrepancies and omissions, according to an investigation by the Southwestern College Sun.

At least three female students have reported serious levels of harassment on campus – including two violent sexual assaults – and each reported that campus police subsequently failed to provide promised escorts.  Advocates for women students and LGBT students expressed concern that assaults and possible hate crimes were not included in the current Clery Report, also known as Annual Security Report, a compilation of campus crimes required by federal law of all colleges and universities who

Lina Chankar/Staff

Lina Chankar/Staff

receive federal financial aid. It is named for Jeanne Clery, a coed who was raped and murdered on her campus at Lehigh University in 1986.

President George H. W. Bush signed the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Policy and Campus Statistics Act in 1990 after the measure received overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate and House of Representatives.

Female crime victims asked that their names not be used because in at least two cases the alleged attackers are still attending Southwestern College. The third and fourth attackers have not been identified and it is not known if they are still students here.

Jane Doe #1 reported that she was sexually assaulted in campus Parking Lot O during the spring 2014 semester.  She said a very persistent male student followed her to the lot and pressured her to go on a date with him.

“I thought I’d ask you out,” Doe #1 quoted the male student as saying to her.  When Doe #1 told the man she did not wish to go on a date with him, she said he grabbed her and kissed her against her will.

“If you’re not going to go on a date with me, then why don’t you kiss me right now?” Doe #1 reported the man said to her as she struggled to free herself from his grasp.

Doe #1 said she finally pushed the man off her and demanded that he leave her alone. She said she ran from the parking lot to the physical education area where she encountered tennis coach Susan Reasons, who called campus police.  Doe #1 said her attacker followed her halfway across campus and was lurking nearby as she asked Reasons for help. As police arrived he fled and was not apprehended.

SWC Officer Benjamin Gess took Doe’s account of the incident and made a report. Under the Clery Act the report of an attempted sexual assault should have triggered a communique from the campus police or administration to the entire campus community, but none was issued and no one was contacted. California Department of Education Spokesperson Jane Glickman said that both forcible and non-forcible sex offenses have to be included in a college’s Annual Security Report required under the Clery Act.

Doe #1 said she was told to contact Gess for escorts.  She said she called the campus police department at least three times in the three days following the incident to request that Gess escort her to her car, but the officer did not return her calls, she said.  Nor did campus police respond to her requests for information on the status of the case, she said.  Gess said he never received any messages from Doe #1 and was not aware that she had contacted the campus police department to ask for an escort.

Doe #1 was sexually assaulted a second time during the fall 2014 semester in a south campus parking lot. This assault was even more prolonged, violent and personal than the spring attack, she said. She was pinned against her car in the dark, she said, with no SWC campus police or parking safety attendants in sight. She said she felt “scared, helpless, disgusted, weak.”
It happened fast and was a blur, she said.

“I just remember wanting to get him off me,” she said. “I wanted him to leave me alone. I was just trying to think of ways to get him to stop and leave me alone.”

Doe #1 said she survived the second attack because she was eventually able to mace the assailant and kick him in the groin.
Doe #1 reported the sexual battery to campus police personnel at the department’s front desk. She said she never received a return call from the campus police and no follow up was done.

“I was never contacted to come in or anything,” she said. “I was just discouraged about the whole process. I was really discouraged about how the police handled the first one, and the fact that they never got back to me. I didn’t know anything about the second guy, so I thought it was done and over with. And I know they’re not going to do anything about it because they didn’t do anything about it the first time.”

Doe #1 said women are not safe at SWC and their concerns are not taken seriously by SWC’s all-male campus police department.

“I really hope they change the process,” she said, “with all of the stuff (related to sexual assaults) going on at San Diego State.”

Doe #1 still attends SWC, but has male students she trusts walk her to her car and around campus after dark.  At least two other victims, however, decided not to stay at Southwestern because they said they did not feel safe on campus.

Jane Doe #2 was verbally harassed and stalked by a male student who was unhappy that he was not mentioned in an article she had written for the campus newspaper.  He wrote numerous angry and profane text messages to the petite woman, and did not stop until a professor intervened and campus police called the assailant on his cell phone and ordered him to cease.  He stopped the texts, but then began to follow Doe #2 around campus, something that several of her friends and at least one professor verified in reports to the campus police and Dean of Student Affairs Mia McClellan.

Despite hard copies of numerous threatening text messages and testimony by classmates and faculty about the stalking, Doe #2’s assailant was not punished and was allowed to remain on campus.

Doe #2 requested campus police escorts and received “a few for a day or two,” she said before the campus police stopped showing up.  Doe #2 said she was humiliated by her treatment by student affairs staff and did not feel safe on campus. Her assailant was eventually barred from areas of campus where Doe #2 had classes, but the diminutive Doe #2 said she could not take the stress anymore and quit school. Her assailant was allowed to remain at Southwestern and even received a campus scholarship in spring 2014.

Jane Doe #3 also requested a campus police escort when a male student began to follow her around campus and crudely demanded explicit sexual favors. Campus police promised escorts, then repeatedly failed to show.  Her classmates and two of her professors created an escort schedule for Doe #3 and escorted her themselves for the rest of the semester.

Doe #3 finished the semester, but dropped out of Southwestern during a subsequent semester following a severe beating at the hands of a male she was trying to break up with.  Because the assault took place off campus, college officials said there was nothing they could do to the male assailant, who freely roams Southwestern College. Doe #3 said that based on the campus police department’s previous failures to escort and protect her, she did not feel safe at Southwestern College and dropped out.

Governing Board Member Norma Hernandez asked SWC Police Chief Michael Cash about the case of Doe #3 in open session at the Oct. 8 board meeting.  Cash called the missed escorts “a miscommunication” and gave a long answer that left the impression that Doe #3 was at fault.

Even so, campus officials continue to make public statements that they will provide escort services for students.  Cash told the entire faculty and classified staff on opening day in August that the campus police are “happy to provide escorts” and that “our campus is a safe campus.”

Earlier this month President Dr. Melinda Nish told a group of College Estates residents and Chula Vista city officials gathered to discuss citizen complaints about student parking in residential neighborhoods that part of the $40-per-semester parking fee is to fund police escorts.

“The revenue from the parking permits is all used to maintain the parking lots and to maintain enforcement and escorts to the parking lots,” she told the gathering.

Gay students have also complained that too little was done about a possible hate crime in the spring 2013 semester when a vandal defaced a poster inviting students to a Gay-Straight Alliance Club meeting. “NO FAGS” was written boldly across the poster, which was taken down by club members and reported to campus authorities.  This incident, however, was not mentioned in the 2013 Southwestern College Annual Security Report (ASR).  Campus Police Sgt. Robert Sanchez said the vandalism was investigated, but there was not enough evidence to move forward.

“There was no suspect information, there was no video, no photos and nobody that actually witnessed it when it took place, so there wasn’t much else we can do at that point,” he said.

Cash said he did not know why it was not included on the report as a hate crime under the sexual orientation section of the Clery Act. Seconds later he said it was not in the report because it was not required to report hate crimes in 2012 or 2013. Seconds after that he said it was not in the report because 2013 crimes were not included in the ASR reporting yet.

California Department of Education Spokesperson Jane Glickman said hate crimes should always be reported by public colleges in its ASR reports.

“The Clery Act has always included hate crimes, but new categories were added to the list of hate crimes in the Higher Education Opportunity Act, passed on August 14, 2008,” said Glickman. “In addition, the Violence Against Women Act of 2013 added gender identity and national origin as two new categories of bias for a determination of a hate crime.”
Cash had a different interpretation.

“That’s brand new this year of Clery,” he said. “That wasn’t part of the Clery (ASR reporting) last year. That’s a new guideline that Clery did this year. Remember, we’re not going on a year-to-year cycle. We’re going October-to-October cycle.”
Cash said that since the report is due by Oct. 1 of each year, “I might lag a little bit of a gap because I gotta get my report in.”

An Oct. 1 deadline makes it difficult to include crimes that happen in September, he said, because he needs to show the draft of the Clery Report to his supervisors well before the deadline.

“I’m counting crimes from Oct. 1st, 2013 to Oct. 1st, 2014, so I’m trying to capture stuff that’s in there,” he said. “I’m submitting that. And so when I turn in my 2014 (report), it’s really the 2013 year with some of the 2014 numbers.”

Glickman said the reports are for crimes that happened between January and December of each year, not an October-to-October cycle. She said the reports are due to the Department of Education by October 1, giving colleges nine months to complete them.

Cash said the hate crime against the GSA club will be on the 2014 column of the ASR crime report, even though the Clery Act requires 2013 crimes to be on the 2013 ASR crime report. There are no hate crimes listed for 2013 in SWC’s most recent report.

Crime reports for Southwestern College have other discrepancies.  In the 2010-12 ASR, three vehicles were reported stolen in 2011.  In the 2011-13 ASR, there were a reported eight vehicles stolen in 2011.  In the 2010-12 ASR there were 10 liquor violations reported.  The 2011-13 ASR reported nine liquor violations. Cash said he submits identical ASRs to the Department of Education and to the campus community. He said he does not know why there are discrepancies in both reports.

“I haven’t seen it,” said Cash, “so I don’t know. As far as I know, we don’t have any discrepancies.”

Annual Security Reports are required to calculate and report campus statistics for murder, forcible or non-forcible sex offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, manslaughter and arson.  Reports are also supposed to enumerate certain disciplinary actions, hate crimes and arrests.  Under the Clery Act, campus officials are required to warn the campus community in a timely way about violent acts that may endanger others.

Sexual offense, according to the law, is supposed to trigger a campus-wide notification of an assault that was reported and that a possible sex crime perpetrator may be at large.

Campus officials are not required by law to report any other crimes to campus community that are not mandated by the Clery Act, however, college officials are free to warn the campus population of any other crimes they believe students and the community need to be aware of, including off-campus crimes that could impact students or employees.

California public colleges and universities are required to make the Clery Report and campus crime reports available to the campus community and the public.  The 1990 Clery Act states, “The law requires schools make the report available to all current students and employees, and prospective students and employees must be notified of its existence and given a copy upon request.” On Aug. 28 SWC’s Office of Admissions sent an email to students and faculty informing them of the existence of the college’s 2013 Annual Security Report, as the Clery Act requires.

Southwestern College ASRs can be found at the California Department of Education website. Sanchez said reports are also available at the campus police office, McClellan’s office, the student center, and admission and records.

SWC crime reports cover the main campus in Chula Vista as well as satellite centers in National City, Otay Mesa and San Ysidro.  Reports have failed, however, to include the Coronado-based Silver Strand Aquatic Center. Cash said that it was included with National City crimes.

Governing Board member Nora Vargas said officials should look at concerns about campus safety measures as a component of student success, a core goal of both SWC and the California Community College system.

“Education is much more holistic than just  getting good grades and university transfers,” Vargas said. “You have to feel safe. You have to feel comfortable in the environment. So I want to make sure that we start incorporating all of this and it becomes part of (the) water as we’re having these discussions.”

Editor’s Note:  It is the policy of the Southwestern College Sun to require named attributions by all sources with rare exceptions that include sexual assault victims, victims of dangerous crimes and situations where personal safety may legitimately be at risk. Due to the sensitive nature of the crimes reported by the women in this story, the Editorial Board of The Sun agreed not to use the victims’ names.  All scenarios described in this article, however, were independently verified by at least five campus sources with direct knowledge of the events, including law enforcement or college documents. Appropriate campus police and college officials were given ample opportunity to respond.


About Author

Comments are closed.