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Sexual Violence Concerns Escalate

Monmouth University released its latest Clery Act report on Saturday, Oct. 1, revealing that several instances of rape, criminal sexual contact, and domestic violence were reported on campus and surrounding public property between 2019 and 2021.

The University recorded five rapes in 2019, one in 2020, and three in 2021, totaling nine rapes over a three year span. Seven instances of criminal sexual contact and 11 cases of domestic violence were recorded over this same time period.

According to the Clery Center, the Clery Act requires colleges and universities to report campus crime data, support victims of violence, and publicly outline the policies and procedures they have put into place to improve campus safety. Under this act, all colleges and universities that receive federal funding are required to publish a public annual security report detailing statistics of campus crime for the previous three years on Oct. 1 of every year.

“One of the main purposes of the Clery Act is to make information readily available so that people can make an informed decision about whether or not they want to work at or attend a particular university,” explained Amy Arelquin, Deputy Title IX Coordinator and Clery Compliance Officer. “By disclosing these numbers and all the other fire and safety information that is included in the Guide to a Safe Campus, we are providing people with the necessary information to make those decisions.”

According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), 89 percent of colleges and universities failed to disclose any reported incidents of rape in 2016, despite numerous studies showing that rape is common on college campuses. The Department of Justice confirms that there is a statistical underreporting of rape, especially among college students. As such, Monmouth’s true number of rapes and other instances of sexual violence may exceed the figures revealed in this year’s report.

“It’s clear that underreporting remains an issue, not just on college campuses, but everywhere,” said Kiameesha Evans, Dr.PH, MPH, MCHES, Director of Gender and Intersectionality Studies.

“Any allegation of sexual misconduct is disturbing and when we learn of one we follow up on it as the victim/survivor wishes,” explained Mary Ann Nagy, Vice President for Student Life and Leadership Engagement. “Creating an environment where students are comfortable reporting these cases will certainly increase our numbers but will also enable us to understand the depth of the issue so we can continue to adjust our policies, practices and educational programs further.”

“While we aspire for a safe campus community free from crime, we have prepared for the possibility of criminal activity in and around our campus, including sex offenses, and have made every effort to ensure our students have access to the support and resources they need to feel safe,” added Patrick Leahy, Ed.D., President of Monmouth University.

“The Board of Trustees takes campus safety very seriously and we work closely with University administration to ensure that the University’s policies and procedures support and protect our campus community,” said Jeana Piscatelli, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “As a woman, I know that concerns about safety can be felt more keenly by women and other groups who are more likely to be targeted by perpetrators of sexual violence.”

The data from this year’s Clery Act report dates back to 2019. In August of that year, Leahy joined the Monmouth University community in place of Grey Dimenna, Esq., former president of Monmouth University.

“Since arriving at Monmouth, I have worked closely with the Division of Student Life, the Monmouth University Police Department, the Office of the General Counsel, and the Division of Facilities Management and Campus Planning to prioritize and safeguard the welfare of our community and in particular, our students. I have been directly involved in the searches for new leadership in three of these four areas, ensuring that my new colleagues share similar thoughts and ideas on the significance of safety on our campus,” said Leahy.

Although the University is legally required to disclose this information through the Clery Act, many have questioned why the campus community is not informed of these acts as they occur.

“I absolutely question the school’s transparency on these issues,” added Richard Pitts, a junior political science student. “There is minimal to no communication about these events on campus to the student body.”

Despite these concerns, Arlequin assured that any crimes that “pose an imminent threat to the campus community” will be disclosed through Monmouth’s emergency notification system. Additionally, daily crime logs detailing the past 60 days’ worth of crime on campus are available upon request to Arlequin’s office or the Monmouth University Police Department (MUPD).

“The safety and security of all members of the community is a top priority of the University. That is why we have a police department and we invest in that department from a personnel and training perspective,” said Nagy, describing the department’s working relationship with local law enforcement.
Nagy also described several other safety measures implemented on campus, including emergency phones, card access to buildings, cameras, lighting, and the utilization of safety officers and traffic attendants.

“The University boasts transparency with its Hawk Alerts and blue lights, but when it actually comes down to notifying the campus community of rapes and instances of sexual assault, University members are left in the dark. It makes you question why certain information is less publicized,” said a senior business student who wished to remain anonymous.

Leahy described several safety measures that have been implemented since Carlos Ortiz, Chief of Police, joined Monmouth in March of 2022, including improved emergency response training, security camera and emergency callbox audits, smart landscape design, and development plans to relocate the police headquarters to a “more suitable facility.”

“An increase in criminal activity can be alarming,” said Ortiz. “However, our University Police Department is proactive in maintaining the safety of our students and the campus community. Working alongside University partners, it is an opportunity to address how we as a campus develop strategies to maintain the safety and security of our students.”

“As our new Chief of Police continues to assess the campus for possible safety improvements we will work to address those needs both physically and with additional staffing as needed,” Nagy added.

Beyond University-implemented safety protocols, Ortiz advises students to protect themselves by walking in well-lit areas, avoiding walking alone at night, knowing the locations of the emergency call boxes located on campus, and reporting any suspicious or criminal activity to University Police when on campus.
Still, Nagy points out that the best way to reduce the number of rapes, criminal sexual contacts, and acts of domestic violence is to educate all members of the community. “It is critical that students know what our policies are, how to report a situation of sexual misconduct, harassment, stalking, dating violence or domestic violence to us,” she explained.

“Monmouth aspires to be a place where all members of our community feel welcome, safe, and protected. We recognize that any act of sexual misconduct poses a serious threat to the spirit of this community. As such, the university prohibits all forms of sexual misconduct and aims to foster a supportive environment in which all members of the community feel comfortable and safe reporting their experiences to the university,” said Leahy. He added that direct support and access to safety resources are available through the Division of Student Life, Office of Equity and Diversity, Police Department, and Department of Counseling and Prevention Services.

“Monmouth University strives to provide the safest environment possible for all members of our community. The occurrence of any crime or sexual offense on campus is one too many,” concluded Leahy.