Campus safety and security has become a paramount issue for institutions across the nation and state, with new threats ever emerging and administrators and authorities racing to respond with novel and innovative tactics.
In hopes of sharing some of those best practices and techniques, the state Board of Regents, the Iowa Association of Community Colleges, and the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges will for the first time this fall convene a “Campus Safety and Security Summit.” The six-hour meeting Oct. 28 will involve teams of higher education officials on the Des Moines Area Community College Ankeny campus.
Summit sessions will follow three tracks — prevention and training, response, and risk assessment and management, according to the Board of Regents. Each track will cover legal requirements, campus policies, and procedures. Discussion topics will include emergency response protocol, investigation and judicial process, communication, bystander training, and victim support.
This week’s announcement of a statewide higher education safety summit comes one month after the Board of Regents agreed to create a campus safety and security subcommittee charged with reviewing security reports and monitoring issues at University of Iowa, Iowa State University, University of Northern Iowa, and the special schools it oversees.
That group will discuss training related to identifying and preventing sexual violence, harassment, and other Title IX violations, and it could look more broadly at security issues involving potential biohazards or active shooters on campus.
At the June 4 regents meeting when the board approved the subcommittee, Executive Director Bob Donley said Iowa’s regent campuses already do much of what the U.S. Department of Education has recommended related to sexual misconduct and violence prevention.
“We are doing an extraordinary job already,” Donley said at that meeting. “This is a great opportunity to highlight some of the things we are doing.”
The regents subcommittee will meet at least twice a year and include at least one representative from each campus and from the state’s special schools. Donley said it will provide the campuses space to share best practices, and he charged provosts from the universities to spend the summer developing a plan for the committee and the issues it will cover.
Donley proposed the provosts coordinate town hall meetings on their respective campuses to gauge the safety issues most pressing to their communities.
Josh Lehman, senior communications director for the board, said the statewide summit is not connected to the regents group.
“The idea for this summit happened this past spring, and predates the formation of the subcommittee,” he said.
The board does not yet have a list of the institutions who will send representatives to the October summit, but Lehman said, “We’re hopeful that a high number will be able to participate.”
Gary Steinke, president of the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, said all of the state’s 25 private institutions will be represented through his participation. But, he said, some also might send their own people.
“It’s always a good idea to examine the safety of your campus,” he said, adding that Iowa’s private schools are very safe. “That’s one of the things we brag about. But we want to be involved and make sure we’re not missing anything.”
Each institution must report crime statistics annually to comply with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.
For the 2013-2014 school year, the most recent data available, Cedar Rapids’ Coe College, which has about 1,400 students, reported six forcible sex offense reports, four burglary reports, three aggravated assault reports, and 113 liquor referrals.
Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, which has about 1,800 students, saw one forcible sex offense report and 23 liquor sanctions that year.
According to U.S. Office of Postsecondary Education, all of Iowa’s public and private institutions in 2013 combined for 103 forcible sex offense reports on campus, 178 burglary reports, and 42 aggravated assaults. The sex offense reports were up from 71 in 2011, as were the assault reports, which increased from 35 in 2011. Burglary reports were down from 275.
According to the Board of Regents’ most recent campus safety report, UI saw its total arrests plummet in 2014 — dropping from 1,406 in 2013 to 759 last year. ISU also saw an arrest decline from 1,274 to 1,010, as did UNI from 153 to 127.
Despite those declines, UI saw three-and-a-half times more sex offenses reported last year — with 14 compared to four in 2013, according to the regent report. ISU saw 12 reported sex offenses in 2014, down from 13 the previous year. And UNI had three reported sex offenses, up from two in 2013.
Sexual assault on campus has become a pressing issue nationally and in Iowa, with students launching campaigns and initiatives aimed at increasing awareness, education, and intervention.
The UI Office of the Sexual Misconduct Response Coordinator of late has seen more reports and complaints ranging from dating and domestic violence to stalking, although many don’t rise to the level of a criminal or policy violation, officials said.
The office received 235 reports in 2013 and 300 reports in 2014.
UI President Sally Mason last year launched a six-point plan aimed at addressing sexual violence on campus, and she convened a student advisory committee on sexual misconduct that met for the first time in April 2014.
The other regent universities also are addressing the issue, including ISU which is being investigated by the Office of Civil Rights. Federal investigators are looking into whether ISU response “promptly and equitably” to reports of sexual violence after a student said she was sexually assaulted during the 2013-2014 school year and then discriminated against by the university.