Timely warnings on campus sexual assaults

Last semester the student body received three “timely warnings” from the police department’s email advising the campus to potential dangers. After this, we wanted to know more about why we received these particular warnings and what it meant for the student body.

On Sept. 18, a “timely warning” was issued alerting of a rape that occurred in the residence hall between 11 p.m. and midnight. The suspect was described as 20+ years, at 6 feet tall with black hair and a slender physique. On Sept. 22, another “timely warning” was issued with the same individual listed as a suspect in another rape. A man, Julian Espinoza, was named as a suspect and a photo was issued along with the “timely warning”. The third “timely warning” issued an alert on an incident that occurred between Oct. 6 and 7. A female reported to be raped by an unknown male.

UPD’s police chief, Earl Lawson, was interviewed about the incidents and asked whether the suspect was ever caught.

“Let me back out here and like give you a 10,000-foot view and bear with me,” Lawson explained to us. “We’re trying to create a reporting culture at CSU Monterey Bay. So, what’s happening nationally is that statically when they do blind surveys about one in five women are reporting that they’ve been sexually assaulted while they’re in college. And when you have a university like ours with maybe 8,300 students and 60 percent of the students are female and they are here for an average of five years. You shouldn’t be bragging if only four or five women reports being sexually assaulted every year. That’s not that sexual assaults aren’t occurring, it’s that you’re failing to make reporting available. You’re failing to make resources available. The university needed to step up our game and say how are we going to make it easier for our students to get resources and get support from the university and report these incidents.”

This is why on campus there is the Title IX office, which is an administration process and separate from the police department, a campus advocate that’s here full time, the Personal Growth and Counseling Center, and we have trained and identified 398 campus security authorities who are full time and part time staff who works directly with students. This is in addition to the police department, so anybody can report a sexual assault to any of those resources. This means that incidents can end up being reported only to the campus authority and not become part of a criminal investigation. Julian Espinoza isn’t considered an official suspect by the police as neither of the first two rapes were reported to the police, it was only reported to the Title IX office.

“The survivors, two of them—separate—both told Title IX, I don’t want the police involved,” Lawson explains further, “That’s frustrating for me because I’d like to go out and arrest somebody. But the truth be told, our job is to provide support to students. And if these students might not have otherwise come forward, then they might not have reported it at all if their only option was the police or if they had to report it to the police. We wouldn’t be able to help those students be successful in school, help move them to a new location, help to hold the aggressor accountable. It would basically be another undisclosed, unknown statistic.”

When asked about the suspect of the third incident, Lawson informed us they interviewed the suspect but that he couldn’t speak more on the matter because the case is currently under investigation.

What does all of this mean? What is the purpose of “timely warnings”? “Timely warnings” are a campus obligation, not a legal obligation. It’s not a police bulletin. Lawson added that, “Those are the only three reported sexual assault incidents that met the criteria for a “timely warning”… There were more than three reported.”

Wanting to know more, we went to speak with Title IX director Wendy Smith in order to learn more about the Clery Act and why the school issues “timely warnings”.

Title IX was established back in the early 70s as an amendment to the Civil Rights Act. It requires that all education institutions, including higher education, not discriminate on the basis of gender. Over time, that discrimination based on gender has been interpreted to include sexual harassment, sexual violence, sexual misconduct, gender identity and sexual orientation. The Clery Act was a separate response to a campus incident where a student was killed and it is much broader in scope because it is not limited to the gender categories. The Clery office records incidents of simple assaults, burglaries, homicides, and other criminal acts that Title IX wouldn’t be involved in. The Clery office also compiles a record of all these incidents and releases an annual security report based on all the data that has been collected campus wide.

When asked about who handles the “timely warnings”, Wendy Smith explains, “The Clery office actually handles the “timely warnings”. So, again, remember what we’ve mostly seen on this campus is “timely warnings” related to sexual assaults. But those could come out for any of the crime categories that she (Shanieka Jones, Clery Compliance Officer) handles. But what happens often when we know about a sexual assault on this campus the feelers are going out in a lot of different directions. So, if things are working the way they are supposed to, I know about it. The Clery office knows about it. And whether or not the police department knows about it is really based on what the complainant wants to do… Clery, like my office, always gets the report. It’s not optional whether or not you report to Title IX or the Clery office. But for Clery it can be anonymous.”

The Clery office primarily assesses whether a “timely warning” is necessary. If they get reports indicating an on-going safety concern for the campus, a team of experts work together to decide whether to publish a “timely warning”.

Returning to the issue of the previous “timely warnings”, we asked Wendy Smith about the “timely warnings” for Julian Espinoza and how they became aware of his identity when he isn’t being investigated by the police. “Well, remember, for the first one we had all the identities in Title IX. We had it. The police did it, but we had it. And we didn’t- based off of the original reports that we have- feel that there was a need to release name and ID because we had no reason to know at that point that it would expand beyond that individual. We have to be careful- You know, it’s a possibility, because the police weren’t involved they couldn’t go incarcerate the person or detain the person, etc. They felt like it was an on-going risk because he was out there somewhat unchecked, although obviously under the purview of my office at that point. But, as we continued to get reports there was a growing concern of our ability to contain the risk.”

Go to https://csumb.edu/clery if you’re interested in knowing more about “timely warnings” or need to get into contact with the Clery Compliance Officer, Shaneika Jones. You also can get free access to the Annual Security Report for 2017 on this webpage. To get in contact with the Title IX director, her information is on https://csumb.edu/titleix.

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