Demanding Clery-ty | UVA Student Council

The moment I heard about a University employee’s recent attempt to abduct a UVa student, I was waiting for one thing. But the email from Chief Michael Gibson, head of the University Police, never came. And nearly four days after the attack, it still hasn’t. These emails, while unnerving, have become routine. They are a reminder to stay vigilant, but they are also more than that. It is comforting to know that there is someone responding to safety concerns, both before and after the fact. It is the absence of an email, this time, that has many UVa students concerned. Silence, instead of the prompt response we have grown used to, is disconcerting and has generated a negative outcry among the student body. Even though we have the facts, even though we know the survivor fought off her attacker and even though we know he was quickly apprehended, students are deeply unhappy that the University has remained silent on an issue as serious as this one.
Like many of you, I was concerned about the University’s reasons for staying silent. So when Allen Groves, the Dean of Students, came to speak at tonight’s Student Council meeting about sexual assault and misconduct, I asked him two questions: Why hasn’t the University responded and when do they intend to?
While I do not aspire to speak on behalf of Dean Groves, I do want to offer a brief explanation for frustrated students. Dean Groves explained that the notifications we receive after an incident are a condition of The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, or simply, the Clery Act. It’s a federal statute aimed at improving security on college campuses, but it has several requirements that need to be met before there is a legal imperative to notify the community.  These emails are triggered only when there is still a clear and present danger threatening the safety of the University community. As such, the act was not triggered in this particular situation because the attacker had been so quickly apprehended and arrested. Dean Groves also noted that the University does not want students growing numb to these emails by receiving them too often. There is no cover-up nor is there any malicious intent behind the University’s failure to respond.
That being said, regardless of the legal implications or guidelines, it is time for the University to acknowledge that something happened; something that shouldn’t have happened. Your students are waiting to hear from you, simply put, because this is a scary situation. It could have happened to anyone. We want to be reassured that our University is acknowledging this incident and taking it seriously.  And we deserve a response whether it’s federally mandated or not.