Just a Typo: News Story


While this is an old story and I have written for every company I have worked for in some capacity, I wanted to showcase an in-depth story that required research, digging, interviews, and time to complete. I also received a first place award for this one from the Indiana Collegiate Press Association. I come from a news background with a BA in Journalism, but I have written promos, ads, social posts, blogs, emails, landing pages, magazines, and proposals over time.

Sex offenses are typos at USI

Written by Kayla Ehrie, Special to The ShieldTuesday, 01 February 2011 17:45

Sex offenses are typos at USI.

USI ‘s annual crime report logs have errors. As of Dec. 1, 2010, USI’s website read differently from what they sent to the  U.S. Department of Education. Neither reports were actually correct.  According to Head of Security Steve Woodall, they were just “typos.”

“It was just one of those; it was a mistake I made. I will be the first to say I’m not perfect,” Woodall said.

Before changes were put in place the week of Dec. 1, the USI crime report log read there were two sex offenses in university housing and one off-campus in 2009.

However, the document that was sent to the Department of Education for 2009 stated there was one sex offense on campus, one in on-campus student housing and one in non-campus buildings or property.

While there were discrepancies between the numbers for 2009, neither were correct. In 2009, there were five, not three, sex offenses at USI. Four occurred in student housing, and one occurred in a non-campus place.

All five could be found in security’s daily logs, but were not checked correctly.

“To be honest, I hadn’t checked the appropriate box. Since then, it’s been checked and it will be sent in,” Woodall said. “The box hadn’t been checked, so it didn’t come up on the report, and since then I went in and found it.”

Besides errors in numbers, USI could have faced Clery Act Violations for using incorrect terminology as well.

According to S. Daniel Carter, director of public policy at Security on Campus Inc., the term USI was using, “off-campus,” is not defined under the Clery Act. The term “non-campus” was defined to include Greek organizations and other institutionally related property.

“So that prospective students and others can properly compare institutions, it is important that they all use the same terminology and define those terms the same,” Carter said.

According to Carter, if USI wouldn’t have made the changes in numbers and terminology, they would have violated the Clery Act.

“I’m not sure which numbers you’ve seen, but USI’s Clery data as reported on their own website is inconsistent with that reported to the U.S. Department of Education,” Carter said.

If there would have been an investigation, USI could have faced a fine of $27,500 for each sex offense that was reported incorrectly.

“They were both wrong,” Woodall said. “That will be corrected.”

The mistakes made by USI do not start and end in 2009.

In 2008, USI originally reported there were two residential sex offenses and one off-campus sex offense. The U.S. Department of Education’s report sent by security read there were two on-campus sex offenses, two in on-campus student housing and none in non-campus facilities.

In 2008, there were not three or four sex offenses, but two. Both occurred in student housing at USI.

“The vast majorities of these, both the victim and the perpetrator, were intoxicated,” Woodall said.

Though that information is not on the daily reports, Woodall has gained this information from his experience with sexual assaults on campus.

In 2007, USI’s annual crime report stated there was one “off-campus” sex offense, which correlated with the one “non-campus” sex offense reported to the U.S. Department of Education.

However, according to security’s daily crime logs, there were two sexual offenses in 2007. One occurred in a “non-campus” facility and was reported four years after the fact, but a second unreported offense occurred on campus in the Health Professions building.  As of Dec. 13, USI still had incorrect countings of 2007 on their website.

“It was an oversight on my part,” Woodall said.

USI’s website directs victims to Albion Fellows Bacon Center. According to Dean of Students Barry Schonberger, their numbers always vary from USI’s. Albion Fellows Bacon Center does not always know if a victim is a USI student or not.

According to Christina Wicks, the sexual assault program coordinator from Albion Fellow Bacon Center, they have had 36 victims in 2010 between the ages of 18 and 24. Only three are identified as USI students.

In the same 2009 age group, 43 victims used their services. Only two were definitely USI students.

In 2008, they had 39 victims in the same age group. Three were USI students.

“Unfortunately, there are some holes in our records that sometime clients do not share all of their information with us, and if we don’t know we don’t have a way to track it,” Wicks said. “I hate to say, but the numbers for sure could be estimated much greater.”

According to Schonberger, if a campus official is notified about a victim of a sexual crime, he or she makes sure the victim is aware of all the resources available to her or him. These resources include, but are not limited to, Albion Fellows Bacon Center.

“Albion Fellows Bacon may come back in our meetings and they may share with us in the fall they assisted 12 of our students,” Schonberger said. “There is nothing to be surprised about there, that is the nature of things.”

According to Schonberger, there are significant numbers of victims that choose not to report things to the university, especially in the case that it happens off campus.

Woodall said students should always report sexual assaults to security.

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