September 30, 2014
A Message from the President:
At Ohio Wesleyan University, we are deeply committed to providing a safe living and learning environment for the entire campus community. And we always have been.
The federal government and news media have taken a renewed interest over the past few years in ensuring that reports of sexual misconduct are handled appropriately. At Ohio Wesleyan, we have always been committed to this.
According to one analysis, Ohio Wesleyan has the state’s highest number of Clery Act-reportable forcible sex offenses when pro-rated per 1,000 students over the past 12 years. While concerning on its face, our data fall within the expected number of reports, according to the National Institute of Justice. Still, I would like to provide additional context in order to add meaning and relevancy to the data.
First, it is important to note that Ohio Wesleyan does not tolerate, and our policies and procedures explicitly prohibit, all forms of sexual misconduct. If and when such conduct does occur, we are committed to swiftly and thoroughly investigating the incident, taking appropriate disciplinary action, and assisting victims in obtaining all of the help and support they may need.
Next, it is important to understand that a “forcible sex offense” is not synonymous with rape or sodomy. According to the Clery Act, reportable offenses also include “forcible fondling,” or unwelcome groping – including touching that occurs through clothing. While indefensible, this is not rape.
In addition, it is important to consider the percentage of students who live on campus when examining Clery Act data. At Ohio Wesleyan, more than 90 percent of our students live in University housing, which means nearly all of our students live within OWU’s Clery Act-defined reporting area. We also enroll only undergraduate students, which can result in a higher percentage of reported incidents than, for example, colleges with graduate school populations of older students who may be married and have families.
Also, it is not really possible to compare our numbers with, for example, a public institution where a much smaller percentage of students live on campus. Even if those students live very near campus, incidents outside its boundaries aren’t captured by Clery Act data and may never be known by the school.
When we combine these facts with Ohio Wesleyan’s strong student conduct policies, a campus climate that supports students, and an effective student conduct system, we begin to understand our data more fully. Yes, data are important, but our focus always has been – and always will be – following the law, educating the campus, and doing what is right.
An essential feature of a safe campus is that students feel supported in reporting incidents and confident that their reports will be acted upon in an appropriate and timely manner. We are diligent in operating a thorough and honest safety and reporting program, and in providing a safe and respectful campus learning community. We have intelligent and independent students who demand and deserve this. They also demand and deserve a lot from themselves and from each other.
We also have an environment where our Campus Safety, Student Affairs, and Student Conduct staffs have the full and unwavering support of University leadership at all levels to do what is right. And we have a strong working relationship with the Delaware Police Department and local law enforcement, who strive to keep the campus and larger community safe.
For anyone with questions about the safety of Ohio Wesleyan’s campus, we invite you to come visit the campus and the City of Delaware. We invite you to talk with our students, faculty, and staff, as well as with Delaware residents and law enforcement officials.
In the final analysis, safety is of critical importance at Ohio Wesleyan. And, at the risk of repetition, we believe we have created a climate where concerns are both shared freely and addressed appropriately. We want everyone to understand that the University does not tolerate, and its policies and procedures specifically prohibit, all forms of sexual misconduct. We work hard to ensure that we are meeting ever-changing federal guidelines and, more importantly, that we are taking care of and supporting our students.
We are proud of the work we do, and we will continue tirelessly in our efforts to advance our institutional mission of developing the next generation of moral leaders for the global society.