In the 125th year of Auburn women, what are we doing to keep them safe?
According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, an American woman is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. At Auburn University, the home of Toomer’s lemonade, iconic football tradition and good ole southern hospitality, this staggering statistic is difficult to believe. The university’s year-long celebration of 125 years of Auburn women has also set a tone of inclusion and safety for many of Auburn’s students, alumni and guests. While many people maintain the belief that Auburn is a safe haven among college campuses, recent events have brought that safe reputation into the limelight. On Friday, Sept. 15, an 18-year-old student was sexually assaulted by employees of the late-night bus service, Tiger Ten. This horrific incident caused a measurable uneasiness in the Auburn community about preventative steps the university has in place to keep Auburn women safe. “The University’s come to a place where it needs to decide if the reputation of Auburn University is more important than the safety of the students here,” former Miss Homecoming candidate Nicole Finley said in a quote to The Auburn Plainsman. While the university did not publicly respond to this event immediately, it was reported to a database for campus crime statistics. This database is mandated by the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. The “Clery Act” is a consumer protection law that requires institutions of higher education to disclose information about campus safety and security policies and crime and fire statistics. The report is produced annually and published by Oct. 1. It compiles statistics on all crimes reported on campus, as well as outlines the security protocols Auburn University has in place to protect against these crimes. The dates and times of all preventative safety presentations are also listed. The most recent report, the 2016 report, was published on Sept. 29, 2017 and was emailed out to all Auburn students. This year’s report showed a concerning increase in reported crime on Auburn’s campus. The most shocking of which is the rate of reported rapes taking place on-campus. Two rapes were reported on Auburn’s campus in 2014. That number jumped to 11 in 2016, with 8 of the 11 incidents of rape occurring in on-campus residence halls. Stalking incidents went up from 14 incidents in 2014 to 38 in 2016. Aggravated assault, which is defined as serious physical injury to any person and also includes use of a date rape drug, went up from 5 incidents in 2014 to 22 incidents in 2016. Despite these statistics and recent events, many Auburn students still feel that Auburn is doing the best they can to navigate the tricky landscape of campus security. Auburn University’s Panhellenic President, Alex McFadden, feels that Auburn’s celebration of 125 years of Auburn women has shed a light on the safety of Auburn’s women. “I think that the 125th anniversary of women at Auburn has truly highlighted women in an amazing light and has showcased how Auburn is moving forward to keep women confident and safer on campus,” said McFadden. “It is up to every one of us to make adjustments so that Auburn is seen as a safe campus at all times of the day, especially for women.” What is Auburn University doing to combat the ever-growing problem of campus violence against women? In the Clery report, Auburn cited 33 different programs for prevention and awareness of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking and dating violence. The programs were targeted to four different demographics: incoming students, new faculty, current students and current faculty. Auburn’s Office of Health Promotion and Wellness houses a host of prevention programs as well as victim’s support. One organization is Green Dot, a national bystander intervention training program that provides free bystander intervention training. The office is also home to Safe Harbor, a victim advocacy group that seeks to “believe, support and assist students and employees of Auburn University after they have experienced interpersonal violence.” In response to the assault on the Tiger Ten bus in September, Auburn University implemented many new safety measures. These include hiring a firm to place security personnel on each bus running a late-night route, training employees to monitor the real-time camera system and training employees in the Green Dot Bystander Intervention program. Only time will tell if the measures Auburn has put in place will create a safer environment for students.