Despite feel-good rhetoric from leadership, Southwestern College is unsafe for women


San Diego State is not the only local higher education institution with a sexual harassment problem. Southwestern College is also losing women to predatory attacks, only at SWC our police and administrators have given us no indication that they care.
An investigation in the winter edition of The Sun brought to light accounts from three women who were sexually assaulted or severely bullied by men on campus. They were promised police escorts, but were stood up. Blown off. Left alone. Ignored. Two left school and one was sexually assaulted a second time, an even more personal and violent attack.
Our campus police department’s reaction? No reaction.
SWCPD officials could not be bothered. Neither could clerical staff who did not open the front door even though a scared young lady was frantically knocking and did not bother responding to phone calls from an assault victim.
Police response to the article? None. Silence. Indifference. Same from administrators, who apparently spent time unsuccessfully trying to poke holes in the story, but spent no time addressing the problem. Our police chief, Michael Cash, went so far as to blame an abused women for the blown escorts. Our administration, once again, circled the wagons around the controversial cop and threw the victims under the bus.
SWC’s campus police department is all-male, well-armed and oblivious to women’s safety and their needs. The chief is thin skinned and hyper defensive about any criticism. Office personnel are unfriendly, uncaring and unhelpful. There are some good cops at SWC, but ineffective leadership. Since the buck stops with the boss, President Dr. Melinda Nish has to own this mess.
Cash once again seems to be in over his head as SWC Chief of Police. He even struggles with paperwork and reports, including the federally-mandated Jeanne Clery Act report that enumerates the year’s campus crimes. Mysteriously, the sexual assaults were not on the reports, nor was a high-profile hate crime that targeted gay and lesbian students. Cash seemed completely baffled by the report, its requirements and even the period of time it is supposed to cover.
It would be easy to slap our foreheads and say “duh!”, but there are serious ramifications for the college. An accurate, timely Clery Report is required if SWC wishes to continue receiving millions of federal dollars of financial aid. At SWC four-of-five students receive financial aid. Federal law also requires that all reported crimes make the annual report. Cherry picking is not permitted. Police officials need to make the records more accessible, more transparent and more accurate.
There are people at SWC trying to make the campus safer. Our Public Safety Committee has contributed many excellent ideas. Some of our campus police officers work hard and care about students. We thank you all and encourage you to help again now. Our women to a large extent do not feel safe. A Southwestern College Sun survey of 300 students reflects this. More than eight percent said they do not consider the campus safe. For women, the numbers are nearly 20 percent.
That is unacceptable. There are too many sexual crimes against women and too few leaders who seem to care. Shame on all of you who have let so many young women suffer.


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