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Is ‘one of the safest campuses in the nation’ really ‘safe’?

Clemson University depicts itself as a campus of safety. But in light of recent sexual assaults and little to no transparency, there must be a larger conversation.
Back on Dec. 2, 2017, a sexual assault was reported at the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity house. It was brought to the Title IX office and the student body was notified on Dec. 14 via the CU Safe Alert system. No additional details have been released by the university regarding this incident.

More recently, on Jan. 27, a sexual assault was reported at the Delta Chi fraternity house to Oconee County Sheriff ’s Office at 12:30 a.m. on Saturday, with the assault occurring between 11:30 p.m. Friday and 12:15 a.m. Saturday. Police say the assault was not committed by a Clemson student. The student body was notified of the incident just after 2 a.m. Saturday via the CU Safe Alert system, along with the claim that students would be updated as more information was released. However, the only update given was from the Sheriff’s Office to which students would not be aware unless they were actively looking for information. Clemson has yet to officially update the student body or the public.
These facts may come as a shock to some students or alumni, but the real shock is that these incidents are not as rare as they seem. In Clemson University’s 2017 Security and Fire Safety Report, 10 sexual assaults were reported at Clemson in 2016. This number is not far off from the reports of 13 incidents in 2015 and 12 in 2014. However, in 2010, Redfern Health Center conducted a survey with 720 first-year female students at Clemson with results showing that 20 percent of those surveyed students experienced sexual assault. But what’s more astonishing is that 90 percent of these assaults are not reported. If we take into account the statistics given by Redfern, the total number of sexual assaults at Clemson in 2016 should be closer to 100, not 10.
Last August, Clemson was named one of the safest campuses in the nation by a survey. This award takes into account the number of reported sexual assaults, but as previously mentioned, the reported sexual assaults may not accurately represent the true amount of sexual assaults occurring within the university.
This does not mean that Clemson is unsafe; Clemson is still well-known for its police service, Tiger Transit services and other low rates of crimes, such as larceny. Lately, administration has been promoting that we were ranked number one for lowest crime rate. Although this is something to get excited about, these statistics regarding sexual assault show that Clemson still has work to do to improve campus safety for the well- being of their students.
The school seems to be more focused on their public image of being safe, than on the actual safety of its students. It is one thing to talk about being safe, and another to strive for and demand it. With the current cases of sexual assault, the university has failed to be transparent with the public in offering more information and neglected to seek effective punishment in a timely manner.
Additionally, the university does not encourage survivors of sexual assault of any form to come forward in a judgement-free manner and feel safe seeking proper disciplinary action for the crimes that have occurred. Putting up the posters around dorms of girls crying and advertising support for sexual assault survivors only victimizes these students and makes them feel weak and alone. There has been little done to create a safe space for these survivors to speak out and encourage the student body to have a zero- tolerance policy.
Furthermore, it is because of these failed efforts that Clemson’s report rate remains so low and these few reported assaults are not being disciplined properly.
For instance, Clemson has partially punished Delta Chi for a hazing incident that occurred back in October by putting the house on probation, but also for a sexual assault that one of their brothers didn’t even commit, whereas in the case of the Alpha Gamma Rho sexual assault, no further information regarding a suspect has been released, and the school has yet to inform any form of punishment besides the general ban on house parties for all fraternities.
Clemson needs to stop capitalizing on how safe we are considered, and instead actually work for real change. They need to put aside public image for the welfare of their students so that in the future what has occurred is accurately reported, and the number of these reports can be as low as possible. This calls for Clemson being not only stricter in their disciplinary action, but also much more consistent in how and when they punish fraternities and their brothers for their actions.

Until then, Clemson needs to stop flaunting their safety award and take real action towards sexual assault while recognizing that report rates are skewing their statistics. Especially because parents may think they are sending their sons and daughters to the safest school in the nation, but in reality, they cannot see that what happens behind closed doors actually occurs ten times more than they believe.
The opinions expressed in the above editorial are written by the opinions editor and represent the majority opinion of The Tiger editorial board. In representing the majority view, the staff editorials may not represent the individual view of any particular member. 
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