To some, colleges and universities are “ivory towers” isolated from the larger society. A closer look shows that this country’s academic institutions are reflections of our broader community, struggling with the same social issues and prejudices. Lorri L. Jean, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
The Spinnaker, a News Source from the University of North Florida, released an article reporting an incident which involved a transgender student who was assaulted and verbally threatened by a male in a campus bathroom. The report red-flagged the failure of the UNFPD to release a Clery report. The incident took place February 6 of this year and was reported to the UNFPD on February 7th.
It isn’t unusual to hear that police are poorly trained in handling cases of LGBT assaults nor rare to hear of agencies, such as Victims Advocacy and LGBT groups reporting the way these types of incidents (as what happened February 6) are often minimized or dismissed. The article stated that Chief Strudel’s response was “it is rare, and therefore, we aren’t going to do anything about it.” However, there were concerns expressed by Strudel that his statements were taken out of context when I spoke with him this afternoon. As someone who works as an advocate, activist and photojournalist on LGBT issues, my first reaction in reading this statement in the Spinnaker, was “Is this an accurately recorded statement?” My second reaction was to seek clarification since any incident involving an assault on campus would warrant a Clery report. If you aren’t aware of what a Clery report is, know that it is a set of federally mandated guidelines for universities. The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (20 USC § 1092(f)) is the landmark federal law, originally known as the Campus Security Act, that requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses. The law is tied to an institution’s participation in federal student financial aid programs and it applies to most institutions of higher education both public and private. The Act is enforced by the United States Department of Education. Clerycenter.org
Both Title 9 and the Clery report serve to protect students on campuses, so to have guidelines in place and not follow the protocols would be an act of non-disclosure and not help in the best interest of the population who are most at risk for hate crimes. Strudel denied that he stated that the case was not a hate crime and in fact, insisted that he kept having to correct the reporter. Strudel noted that the reporter took things out of context. A similar complaint by Kaitlin Legg, when I spoke with her earlier this afternoon, was that she had to repeatedly correct the reporter on some statements taken out of context. Legg is acting director of the LGBT Resource Center.
According to the article, the cameras were not checked by the campus PD. Strudel stated that initially when the report came in on February 7, the day after the crime, some of the details were not available, such as where the offense took place nor the name of the victim. Once the PD received this information the Communications sector on campus reviewed the footage. According to Strudel not all the cameras on UNF campus are updated; some are around 7 years old and are analogs and clarity is an issue. Dr. Thomas Serwatka, VP at UNF, emphasized the concerns he and President John Delaney had regarding the delay in releasing the Clery report and investigated the falling out with the campus procedure as soon as they learned of the article in the Spinnaker. Strudel stated that he recognized that he should have released this report immediately, regardless of not having all the information and felt he was protecting the student. Serwatka noted that UNF does not tolerate hate crimes nor non-disclosures of these incidences and are implementing protocols to ensure that procedures are followed regardless of the sexual orientation or gender identity and expression of the individual. The UNFPD is now executing the process for all cases of assaults and had released the crime report later this afternoon. News coverage on First Coast News took place this evening at 11 p.m on the published crime report.