Arizona Daily Wildcat December 10, 1997
Records released by Dean's office
Five sexual assaults, four physical assaults and one incident of hazing were reported to the UA's Dean of Students office this semester, according to statistics the Arizona Daily Wildcat obtained from a dean of students official.
The office released new disciplinary records numbers yesterday, updating a report the Wildcat requested earlier this semester.
Veda Hunn, an assistant dean of students, said only one of the five sexual assault incidents occurred on university property and the victim asked the dean's office not to pursue an investigation.
Associate Dean of Students Alexis Hernandez said the UA's authority to regulate student behavior is limited to conduct that occurs on university-owned property.
Hunn said her office's primary role in these five cases was to provide counseling and assistance to the victims.
In two physical assault incidents, assailants were found responsible for violating community standards, Hunn said.
Those standards were set forth in the UA's 1983 code of conduct, she said, which prohibits "intentionally or recklessly causing physical harm to any person on the UA campus."
The remaining two physical assault allegations are still under investigation, as is the hazing claim.
In order to comply with federal privacy laws, Hunn said the dean's office would not release any more detailed information about the cases, such as the nature of the incidents or any disciplinary action taken. The 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), also known as the Buckley Amendment, prohibits educational institutions from releasing personally identifiable information about students.
FERPA has received attention recently from critics who charge that universities are using the statute to bury campus crime statistics.
The Wildcat reported Oct. 10 that the Dean of Students Office had refused verbal requests to provide statistical information on disciplinary hearings related to campus crime.
Hunn said she had not refused the requests but needed to verify the legality of releasing information before she could do so.
"This was the first time we had received such a request," she said, "So for me the question was, 'can you do that without violating FERPA?'"
After consulting with others in her office and UA lawyers, Hunn said, she determined that statistical information could be released legally.
Hunn said her office has never attempted to hide information that can be legally shared with the public.
UA attorney Mike Proctor said the UA has an obligation to follow the law and is not covering up information to make it seem safer than it is.
"The conception that the disciplinary procedure is a secret process that keeps cases out of the criminal system is fiction. That is simply not true," Proctor said.
"If a case involves criminal allegations and we're prosecuting it, the police are prosecuting it, too. It is a parallel process," he said.
A bill now pending in the U.S. Congress, the Accuracy in Campus Crime Reporting Act of 1997, would require college administrators to report crimes directly to police and to open disciplinary proceedings.
But Hunn said such a law would not help students and would keep many victims of sexual assault from reporting incidents altogether.
"I have been told personally by victims that the reason they don't go to the police is they don't want their name in the paper," she said.
It is Arizona Daily Wildcat policy to withhold the names of sexual assault victims.
Hunn said if her office was required to notify police of all assault reports, many victims would stay away and not receive the help and counseling available at the dean's office.
"We'll lose out on serving people," Hunn said.
The dean's office plays a support role to sexual assault victims, offering counseling and information about legal and disciplinary avenues that are available, she said.
She explained some students may choose not to go to the police because they fear retaliation.
"I see the need for the community to have the information so that people are aware that some very nasty things do happen, so people can protect themselves," Hunn said. "But I'm not going to share information that will place a student in jeopardy."
Proctor said there is a difference between publicizing crime statistics in the name of campus safety and letting the world know who the victim is.
"Where the law is not clear, I'm going to err on the side of protecting the victim," Proctor said.
Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court let stand an Ohio state Supreme Court ruling forcing an Ohio university to release disciplinary records to the university's student newspaper.
Citing FERPA privacy regulations, Miami University had refused to release crime statistics to the newspaper's editor, who was attempting to compile a database of "crime and justice" on campus. The newspaper sued the school to release the stats and last summer Ohio's highest court ordered the school to comply with the paper's request.
The school appealed to the Supreme Court, which announced yesterday it would not hear the case.
Proctor said the announcement would have no bearing on the UA because school officials do not withhold statistical information about crimes.
Hernandez said any assault victim is free to choose where to take a complaint. They can file criminal charges with the police, file a civil lawsuit or file a complaint with the Dean of Students Office. "Is it better in the courts, maybe yes, maybe no. That depends on the case, it is ultimately up to the individual to decide."