The sexual assault of a female student by an unknown male at an off-campus party was reported to Student Affairs early Saturday morning at 12:15 a.m. on Feb. 6.
The Office of Safety and Security alerted the Allegheny College community to the early-morning report through a timely warning email at 5:15 p.m. later that same day. The email confirmed that the case has been referred to interim Title IX Coordinator, Gilly Ford, for follow-up and investigation, and that safety and security has been notified.
Ford and Kimberly Ferguson, vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students, confirmed the Meadville City Police Department is aware of the report, as the college is required to notify the police of certain incidents as stated in the memorandum of understanding between safety and security and the MCPD.
The memorandum states “Any time that a student first reports an act of sexual and/or domestic violence to College personnel other than law enforcement then the student will be informed of their options and processes for resolution as per College policy. If a student chooses not to speak with the MCPD at the time then the student will be informed in writing of their continued right to do so. In these instances, Safety and Security will notify MCPD of the report but not disclose identifiable information until the complaining party grants permission.”
While the college community does not receive timely warnings for all sexual assault reports, Ford explained this notification fell under the Clery Act and was important to community safety.
“Because there was an unknown offender in this situation…we felt it was necessary to issue a timely warning,” Ford said.
The U.S. Department of Education’s “Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting” states that Title IV institutions such as Allegheny must issue timely warnings for Clery Act crimes (1) if it has been reported to campus security authorities or local police agents and (2) if it is considered by the institution to represent a serious or continuing threat to the community.
The college factored in the threat of an unknown and unapprehended individual in its decision to issue a timely warning.
“I would add that one of the things we always evaluate is whether or not we feel there is a threat to the community or an ongoing threat to the community so that was one of the factors we considered,” Jacquie Kondrot, associate dean of students, said.
The U.S. Department of Education’s handbook gave example as to what constitutes an ongoing threat.
“For example, if a rape is reported on campus and the alleged perpetrator has not been caught, the risk is there. If the alleged perpetrator was apprehended, there is no continuing risk,” it states.
The handbook says the Clery Act does not define “timely.” It explains that “the intent of a warning regarding a criminal incident(s) is to enable people to protect themselves this means that a warning should be issued as soon as the pertinent information is available.”
The handbook continued to explain the stipulations in deciding whether or not to issue a timely warning and that it largely fell on a case-by-case basis which Ford and Ferguson echoed.
“Whenever these cases come forward, there are processes that have to be followed, and the reality is we still have to…respect what the survivor chooses to do in each case. There’s never a standard process for any one case,” Ferguson said.
The handbook suggests that the nature of the crime, the continuing danger to the community and the possible risk of compromising law enforcement should all be considered when deciding to issue a timely warning.