Crime Seems Rampant (IMTE)

Second in the IMTE series 

I have a friend, an attorney, who, in response to my column last week, I’m Mad, too, Eddie,” (IMTE) said, Complaining is the easy part but the solutions, now that’s another matter, and never easy.” I hope he doesn’t read this one. I’ll never hear the end of it because he’s right.   Over the next six weeks I am going to address, in turn, each of the six maddening perspectives voiced last week.

Campus crime seems rampant.

I am not sure whether crime is or isn’t rampant but talk about it has markedly increased. The Clery Act  requires campuses to report all campus-related criminal activity in order to continue to participate in federally sponsored financial aid programs. The Clery Act reporting requirements present a confounding conundrum to campus chieftains.

Here it is. Universities must report crime. No reporting required by The Clery Act, no federal student loan programs.  But leadership is hesitant to share crime reports as enrollment might decrease: Who wants to attend an unsafe campus?

Every campus in the nation is dangerous. Concentrations of thousands of rambunctious18 to 22-year-olds in one location create a lack of stability.  In a word — Danger.  These half-adult, half-child, finding-their-way-in-life people wrestle with toils and snares of every imaginable type, frequently with little or no parental/adult supervision, fueled by institutional disdain for suggesting to anyone, including students, how to live, virtually ensures volatility.  Between sunset and sunrise, hours when sanity and order are supplanted by drink and drugs, a.k.a risky behavior, is when most crimes against persons occur. It’s a jungle out there, and it’s dangerous.

Leadership and institutions don’t tell the truth. The Clery Act does not require truthfulness, but supposed accuracy in reporting.  And if you don’t know the difference, quit reading now…as Louis Armstrong quipped when asked, “What is jazz? If you have to ask you’ll never know.”

I tell every family I meet with that university campuses are dangerous. I don’t want students to be disarmed by complacency but want them realistically informed.  On a rural campus in a small college town or an urban campus in a crime-ridden inner-city — danger exists. Church affiliated? Don’t assume that things will be completely safe there either, although there are usually some commonly held “moral imperatives.” What students and families deserve is an honest, straightforward presentation of campus reality, not online reports obscured in the web world.

Co-dependent local newspapers are little help; the demands of advertising and sales can lead to avoiding uncomfortable facts that could be harmful to them and their institutional partners.

Universities are bedeviled by the conflicting conditions in which they operate. I recently met a fellow at the airport in Monterrey, Mexico, who graduated from The Citadel. A discussion was triggered by the respective college rings on our fingers. I shared that I visited The Citadel some years ago. I liked it. He liked Texas A&M University and had visited College Station. We congratulated each other for the wisdom of our insights and choices.

He shared his amazement on the permissiveness of the environment at The Citadel that allowed students to be masters of their own fate between sunset and sunrise. I concurred that Texas A&M University faced some of the same challenges when I was a student there.  Shenanigans, some youthful and silly, some criminal and stupid, ruled the nighttime roost. The students at both institutions are sensible people, strong academic performers, and committed to attaining a good education.

But guess what? They are still between the ages of 18 and 22. They experiment. They create insider and outsider circles in social organizations, athletic teams, marching bands, Greek organizations and human associations of every type. They do things under the cover of night that they would never do in broad daylight, in front of parents, grandparents, teachers, or prospective employers. This creates danger.

The Clery Act, Step-Up!, HAVEN, and other programs intended to limit or prevent violence and crime on university campuses all have some value. However, their value is diminished when campus leadership believes that acts, programs, rules and regulations solve the crime problem. They don’t even expose it, but exacerbate it through a false sense of security and mollifying statistical gibberish.

Leadership needs to pronounce the issue with ringing clarity. University campuses are dangerous by their nature. High concentrations of adolescents turning into adults create danger — it is the nature of the condition of late adolescence.  Faculty and staff who value a culture of permissiveness — freedom of inquiry and experimentation — pass that culture onto not-always-fully-ready students.

A gumbo of circumstance leads to devastating results for individuals, families, and communities.

To address the problem of campus crime and campus safety, university leadership needs to openly recognize the danger that exists in universities populated by students who erroneously believe there is little consequence for behavior…especially if you don’t get caught. No amount of reporting, social programming, educational treatment, will solve the problem completely until the root of the problem is exposed, routinely and openly.

Rules will not fix what relationships neglect, and in the end, safety is a matter of actions, consequences, and relationships under the control of responsible individuals, students and adults alike.

Even with that, university campuses are dangerous places to be.


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