<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Testimony on HR1400

Testimony to New Hampshire House Education Committee on Bill 1400 requiring colleges and universities to report crimes to local law enforcement agency

Craig Brandon: Speaking in Support of the Bill Jan. 28, 2010

 

Thank you for the opportunity to testify in favor of the proposed bill to require local police to investigate crimes on college campuses. My name is Craig Brandon and I live in Surry , New Hampshire . I am the author of a new book about colleges called, “The Five-Year Party: How Colleges Have Given Up on Educating Your Child and What You Can do About it,” which will be published in July by Ben Bella Books.

 Between 1995 and 2007 I was advisor to the student newspaper at Keene State College and during that time the Campus Safety office did everything it could to prevent my student journalists from reporting about crimes on campus. Although the law requires public access to the campus police log, for example, Campus Safety’s policy was to refuse access to it. Instead the office provided an edited version created for the students in which all the crime reports were removed.

The reason for this, as I point out in my book, is that colleges have a conflict of interest when it comes to reporting campus crimes. Their interest in investigating and reporting crimes is always secondary to their prime interest in marketing themselves to tuition-paying customers. Since no parents would send their child to a college with high crime rates, administrators insist that campus safety offices keep their crime report numbers as low as possible. In addition, colleges are reluctant to take any action against their student customers, the perpetrators of most campus crimes.

They cover up crimes in two ways. First of all, they regularly turn away students who attempt to file crime reports. When a camera was stolen by a student at the newspaper I was not allowed to file a crime report because I didn’t have the serial number of the camera. That is NOT how criminal justice is supposed to work. Real police officers write up reports for everyone who wants to report a crime. They don’t turn away crime victims. Campus Safety’s reasoning was that there would not be enough evidence to pursue the case, but that is not a decision police officers are supposed to make. Real police collect and report all information regarding complaints of crimes.

My students interviewed rape victims who attempted to file a crime report but were turned away by campus safety when the victims admitted they had been drinking when the rape occurred. Since they could not give sober testimony, they were told by campus safety, they were not permitted to file a report. Many of my female students said they were aware of this “policy” and knew of many students who failed to report rapes because they had been drinking. Yet New Hampshire ’s rape statute says that if a woman is intoxicated any sex is statutory rape since she is incapable of giving consent. This false information given students discourages rape victims them from filing reports.

The other way campus safety offices cover up crimes is to distribute false and inaccurate crime statistics that are much lower than the actual numbers. Investigations at college campuses across the country have exposed this practice. In New York , for example, the state comptroller found that two thirds of the campuses at the State University of New York underreported their crime statistics to the federal government. Many of these colleges had two sets of books, a secret and accurate one they kept for themselves and a fictitious one for the official report.  A more recent report about the campuses of the City University of New York found the same thing.

Eastern Michigan University was fined more than $300,000 in 2008 for attempting to cover up a murder. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that only 37 percent of colleges report crimes accurately.

 A report last month from the Center for Public Integrity called “Sexual Assault on Campus” found that one in five college women have been the victims of rape or attempted rape while they were in college and that 95 percent of campus sexual assaults were never reported. Part of the reason for this was that college safety offices often tried to talk victims out of filing a crime report in an attempt to keep their crime numbers as low as possible.

As part of the research for my book I contacted rape counseling centers at colleges around the country and asked them how many victims they saw. The average response was about 12 per month, yet when I compared those numbers to the official crime statistics at the same college, the numbers ranged from zero to four for the entire year. Date rape drugs called “roofies” are easily available on campus and fraternity brothers frequently brag about the number of women they have raped on campus with little fear of being caught and punished.

I realize that my testimony conflicts with that made by campus safety offices around the state, who maintained that there were little or no crimes committed on their campuses. To get to the truth I would suggest that you ask the state attorney general to audit the records of the campus safety offices of the state’s three primary party schools: UNH , Keene State and Plymouth State .

If students were aware of how dangerous New Hampshire ’s campuses are it would enable them to take precautions against becoming victims. Providing them with artificially low crime numbers is worse than no numbers at all. It tells students there is no reason to take precautions. Similarly, the reluctance of campus safety to investigate or prosecute rape cases actually encourages male students to sexually abuse female students, since they know there is little chance they will be caught or punished. After five years of looking into this I am convinced that colleges are deliberately covering up crimes to protect their marketing efforts to attract students.

I urge you to adopt this bill as a first step toward protecting the thousands of students who attend college in New Hampshire . College safety offices have failed to protect their students and  it’s time we invited in the real police who can accurately report, investigate and prosecute the hundreds of young campus felons who perpetrate these crimes on unsuspecting victims and get away with it.