Every year on Maryland's college campuses, dozens of sexual assaults are reported to the authorities, duly logged, and reported to the public in an annual roundup.
That such statistics are publicly accessible — they can be found at http://www.ope.ed.gov/security — is the result of a federal law named for Jeanne Clery, a 19-year-old Lehigh University freshman who was raped and murdered in her dorm in 1986. The data include murders, burglaries, robberies, aggravated assaults and other serious felonies.
In 2012, 71 forcible-sex offenses, which include rape and other sexual assaults, were reported at the state's four- and two-year colleges. About 20 fewer sexual assaults were reported in 2010, but a review of the past decade shows that the number typically ranges from about 45 to 65 annually. Data from 2013 will not be available until the fall.
A task force assembled by the Obama administration released a report last week intended to pressure U.S. colleges to do more to combat sexual assault. The task force guidelines also seek to clarify the legal responsibilities of colleges under both the Clery Act and Title IX sexual-violence response requirements. The laws have some overlap that can be confusing for administrators, experts said.
Last week, the Johns Hopkins University came under fire for its handling of an alleged rape case and whether it met the Clery Act's requirement that ongoing threats to public safety be disclosed to the campus community. Authorities did not pursue charges in the case.
Hopkins' Homewood campus reported eight sexual assaults in 2012, Towson University reported two, the University of Maryland, College Park reported 10 and Morgan State University reported one.
The statistics only cover crimes that are reported and take place on campus, on certain university-owned property or immediately adjacent to campus.
Sojourner-Douglass College in Baltimore and Baltimore City Community College reported zero crimes in 2010, 2011 and 2012. BCCC spokesman Patrick Onley said campus police "stand behind the reports they submitted." Sojourner-Douglass College officials did not return a request for comment.
Bisi Okubadejo, a Baltimore attorney with Ballard Spahr who advises colleges on their legal responsibilities regarding sexual-assault cases, said that "many schools had questions" about how to handle situations, such as when a student reports a rape but asks to remain anonymous. The Obama task force's recommendations are "extremely significant and will require action by colleges and universities to come into compliance with Title IX and the Clery Act," she said.
The Clery Act is in the midst of a major revision after the recent passage of the Violence Against Women Act. Michael N. Webster, director of campus safety at McDaniel College, served on a committee that recently sought to codify the law's changes to the Clery Act. They include updating the definition of rape and adding sexual violence and stalking to the statistics that colleges must keep and report.
Webster said the Clery Act changes will serve as a baseline that will hopefully reduce the number of sexual assaults, for example by requiring sexual-assault prevention training for all students.
"The majority of incidences of campus sexual violence are undertaken by a small number of repeat offenders," he said.