FACTS TRUMP HYPERBOLE
Wednesday, the first of October, was a day that federal and state laws came to meeting point. Under federal law, colleges and universities across the country were required to report the incidence of crimes on campus (under the “>Senate Bill 967 dealing with one particular class of crimes on college campuses—sexual assaults—and the Clery Act mandates the reporting of that data. Where before there was speculation, now there are facts.
The just signed California statute requires that colleges in California which want to receive state financial assistance must adopt policies to insure that all sexual activity (on and off campus) involve on-going affirmative, conscious and voluntary consent by both parties throughout their sexual activities. Failure to develop rules that comply with the statute’s strictures can result in a cut off of state funds.
The bill has been widely hailed as a meaningful step in the direction of beginning to deal with the “epidemic” of sexual assaults on college campuses across the country. The author of SB 967 said his bill was needed because,
serious questions have been raised about the ability of colleges and universities to provide safe learning environments, particularly for female students….Sexual violence continues to be a significant problem on college campuses.
As the father of two young women (albeit already out of college) I have an interest in the safety, security and general treatment of women on campus (I also have two granddaughters). If my wife and I seriously thought that the universities our daughters and sons went to couldn't provide “safe learning environments” it would be devastating. The dire analysis of Sen. De Leon turns out not to be true.
There is a problem with the assumptions that undergird the need for the state law (which the Los Angeles Times has “>reports of forcible sexual offenses on University of California campuses rose last year from 133 in 2012 to 199 (a troubling fact) that is set against a female student population of some 122,000 students on UC campuses. Were the rate of assaults in the range of “one in five”—the number that is often cited to indicate the rate of sexual assaults on campuses today—the assault statistic at the UC would approximate 24,000. The actual number is .008 (eight one thousandths) of the predicted total.
But the critics (the Chicken Little industry that thrives on “the sky is falling news”) are already claiming that the “Clery” reports are ““>report, which numbers some 27 pages. It spends several pages detailing its reporting and response procedures for sexual assaults, they seem to be concerned about sexual assaults and their impact.
The report includes data for sexual offenses ranging from forcible (rape, sodomy, assault with object, forcible fondling) and non-forcible (incest and statutory rape) and notes whether the act was committed “on campus property, non-campus (affiliated) or public property.”
It appears to be a comprehensive assessment with data that confirms the absence of an “epidemic” of violence—UCLA reported 37 sex crimes in 2013 (unfortunately up from 22 in 2012): 15 forcible rapes, 2 sexual assaults with objects, 8 forcible fondlings and 13 unclassified offenses (for some reason the total is 38 not 37). Troubling crimes, for sure, but this all occurred on a campus with 21,500 women enrolled and a total community of over 40,000 students and nearly 32,000 staff. The predicted one in five sexual assaults would have resulted in 4,300 incidents at UCLA alone, not 38.
One sexual crime is one too many, 38 is way too many; but 38 is also nowhere close to 4,300.