On the afternoon of Sept. 4, a 23-year-old facilities department employee approached a female Eastfield student. The employee offered the student a tour and invited her into a locked music practice room before sexually assaulting her, according to police. Mesquite detectives, alerted to the crime by campus police, arrested an employee a few hours later. He was fired and legally barred from returning to campus.
The crime was recorded in reports by both police departments, and faculty and staff received a brief email alert after the assailant was taken into custody.
“The Mesquite Police Department is investigating an alleged sexual assault that occurred on the Eastfield College main campus Thursday, September 4 afternoon” the message said. “The suspect is in custody. More details as they become available.” However, the information was never made public through either the DCCCD alerts system or notices around campus.
The college claims that because the assailant was charged with sexual assault and placed into custody of the Mesquite Police Department, he would not pose a threat to those at Eastfield. Thus his actions would not warrant a public warning.
According to The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, or Clery Act, all institutions of higher education that participate in federal financial aid programs must disclose information regarding crimes that take place on or around campus. If the institution deems a crime covered by the Clery crime statistics — such as a forcible sexual offense — as a threat to students and faculty, it is required to issue a timely warning to those on campus.
Although the college determined that the suspect was not a threat, Eastfield students and employees still deserved to be informed. A suspect may have been arrested, but a violent crime allegedly perpetrated by one of the college’s own employees still took place on Eastfield property. A warning was never issued in the period between when the crime was reported and when the suspect was taken into custody, thus potentially endangering people on campus at the time.
In comparison, a series of fliers was posted across campus following a Sept. 2 aggravated assault that took place off campus. Many of the fliers are still displayed in highly visible areas. We agree with the decision to post these fliers in a timely manner, but do not understand why the sexual assault was not handled with the same urgency, especially since it took place at a time when classes were ongoing.
In light of the incident, we must ask why the college felt it necessary to inform Eastfield faculty and staff of the crime, but not students.
Students, faculty and employees alike deserve to know if a violent crime takes place on or around their campus. The Clery Act itself was created in response to the rape and murder of 19-year-old freshman Jeanne Clery, who was attacked in her campus residence hall at Lehigh University in 1986. Although her killer was arrested and later sentenced to death, the act was introduced in 1989 after national backlash against unreported crimes on college campuses brought her death into the spotlight.
Clery’s attacker may have no longer been a threat to the public after he was arrested, but the people attending or living close to Lehigh University still strongly believed that they should have been informed of the crime in a timely manner.
We strongly believe that the entire Eastfield community should have received a public notice both before and after the suspect was arrested.
The administration’s failure to issue a warning to the entirety of the campus was irresponsible and had the potential to endanger hundreds of people.