A student employee of the University of Oregon filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education last month, alleging that the university had “exhibited a pattern of excluding hate-related activity on campus from its Clery Report and has a negligent misunderstanding of the Clery Act with regard to hate crimes.” The complaint attached supporting documents that included email exchanges between UO faculty and the complainant to news articles and public records requests.
Despite this complaint, the university says that UO complies with the federal law based on clery definitions that classify hate crimes based on two key factors: if the action was a crime and if it was targeted against someone based on certain factors such as race, gender or religion.
The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, commonly called the Clery Act, is a federal law that requires all universities to make information on crime on their campuses public. The law is enforced by the Department of Education.
When a crime or incident is reported to the University of Oregon Police Department, it is classified according to the Clery log definitions of different kinds of incidences.
The Clery Act defines a hate crime as “a crime reported to local police agencies or to a campus security authority that manifests evidence that the victim was intentionally selected because of the perpetrators bias against the victim.”
This means that for an incident to be classified as a hate crime according to Clery, it must be both a crime and be explicitly directed at a person. The clery logs included categories of bias are: actual or perceived race, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin and disability.
Last year, the only hate crime recorded on the 2017 Clery Log was an assault motivated by homophobic bias. The complaint addressed three incidents that the complainant thought should be classified as hate crimes: an arrest, and two occasions of hateful messages being spread; both of which were not included in their logs.
According to the student’s complaint, on July 29, 2017 a UOPD officer arrested Andrew Oswalt on a weapons charge. Oswalt was walking on campus carrying a ladder, stapler and white supremacist posters.
University Vice President and General Council Kevin Reed said Oswalt was, “arrested for a weapons violation.” Although Oswalt was with three other men, he was the only one arrested because he was the only one carrying a weapon. Among the other three men was well-known white supremacist Jimmy Marr, whose presence on campus was not conveyed to students at the time. UOPD Chief of Police Matthew Carmichael said this was because the general comings and goings of people on campus is “not something that I would issue a timely warning for.”
Oswalt’s arrest was recorded in the Clery daily logs under “carried concealed weapon.” However, it was not included at all or as a hate crime in the 2018 Campus Fire and Security Report which also had data from 2017.
The reason for the lack of appearance in the 2018 report, according to Reed, was because it “did not fit the definition of a hate crime within the department’s own definition.” He added that doesn’t mean the university didn’t care, wasn’t paying attention or didn’t follow up.
Another incident in the complaint occurred in September 2017, when messages written in chalk on campus that read “deport them all” and “end white guilt,” among others, appeared on campus.
Reed said that while “engaging in the destruction of property by graffiti using an indelible ink or paint would be a hate crime,” the same message chalked on the sidewalk is categorized as a bias incident because drawing on the sidewalk with chalk is not a crime. Because it isn’t a crime, it was not included the daily crime logs or in the Clery Report.
Another incident included in the complaint was a report of two incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism in 2017. According to an email exchange between the complainant and McIver these incidents were not included in the 2017 Clery Report because they were “not categorized as hate crimes for the purposes of Clery statistics.”
There are ways in which the students and university community can look out for each others safety. Carmichael said that just because something isn’t reported in clery, “based on the very narrow specific windows as required by the fed, doesn't mean that it's not reported, and it doesn’t mean that we don’t do anything about it.”
Anyone can file a report of any kind of incident through the university’s portal at respect.uoregon.edu. UO Associate Dean of Students Marcus Langford said the reports come in through a reporting system called Maxient that generates an incident report. He said he and other members of the Dean of Students office will examine the report, and based on its contents proceed as necessary.
If it is shown on the report that a student has experienced an incident of bias, Langford said, “the Dean of Students will reach out to this student and let them know we’re sorry this happened, and invite them in for a conversation.”