Chase Cerbin, Staff Writer (ccerbin@wwc)
Student Caucus recently passed a proposal which would “require public safety to release a monthly report of all incidents recorded by the Public Safety Officers.”
“We need to be routinely updated on incidents that are happening so we can be an informed campus,” said Student Caucus Co-Convener Kyja Wilburn, a sophomore.
This proposal, which was written by the co-coveners, was brought about in part due to an incident where a female was assaulted on campus on the weekend of Halloween.
“We were curious about the assault that happened on Halloween and why we did not know about it,” said Co-Convener and sophomore Ilinca Popescu.
There was no e-mail sent regarding the assault, causing rumors and raising questions among students. Many of these questions came pouring out in early November at the meeting on increased enforcement. Students questioned why Public Safety congregated around the Schafer B party the for the majority of the night, instead of patrolling the whole campus.
As it is now, Public Safety sends out infrequent e-mails to students regarding certain incidents on campus. In the past, the subject matter of such reports has ranged from indecent exposure on the trails to an armed man who was pulled over on campus last year.
Public Safety does keep a file of all the incidents that take place on campus in a year. This information is required by the FBI.
“We have all the information [for which the proposal is asking] right here,” said Director of Public Safety Terry Payne, as he read the proposal for the first time.
Public Safety was never contacted about the proposal and did not even know it existed until The Echo gave them a copy before an interview. Instead, the co-conveners took the proposal directly to Vice President for Administration and Finance Jonathan Ehrlich, to whom Public Safety reports.
“We did not feel we needed to [take the proposal to Public Safety],” said Wilburn.
Public Safety wished the co-conveners would have brought them the proposal first.
“They should have notified me first,” said Payne. “I could have answered any question they had about incident reports. We have all this information readily available to them.”
As it stands, the incident reports are kept in a black binder, available for all students, in the Public Safety Office in Ogg.
“We have all the incidents in this binder that have occurred since January,” said Payne. “All students can view it. The only rules for seeing reports is that the binder you can not take it out of the office and we have to be here when you are viewing it. These are not our rules, it is required by the FBI.”
Although Public Safety infrequently informs students about incidents on campus, they have tried to find a more accessible way in the past.
“Last year I tried six different times to get The Echo to publish monthly incident reports,” said Payne. “I tried giving them exactly what I reported, but they never printed it. It was upsetting to me.”
Publishing the monthly incident reports in The Echo was voiced many times at Caucus. In the proposal, it “recommends…[the reports] be posted online by the College, and distributed to The Echo for republication.”
Other methods of publishing the reports, such as posting them on a bulletin board, were discussed at Caucus, yet none of these options made the final draft proposal.
A significant issue which was discussed in Caucus revolved around students’ privacy within the reported content.
In the original proposal, it was mentioned that “Caucus recommends that information that would specifically identify individuals involved in such incidents (for example: names, age, class year, dorm room number, etc.) be withheld from the report. However, nonspecific information (such as gender(s) of the individuals involved, the location, date, and time of the incident) be included for the benefit of the community.”
Some students felt uncomfortable about having gender included in the reports while some felt information such as age and class standing should be available.
The final proposal that passed in Caucus states that “the report should follow the protocol for confidentiality specified by the Clery Act.”
Now that the proposal has passed in Caucus, it only has to be approved by the President Advisory Committee. The monthly incident reports should begin to be distributed soon after this meeting or once The Echo and Public Safety make arrangements.