Central Michigan Life‘s April 14 article that identified the Central Michigan University student arrested earlier that week for allegedly sexually assaulting a young woman on campus on three separate occasions caused some interesting reactions on social media.
On CM Life‘s Facebook, some said they wished CMU’s alert system would have notified them about the incident right after it was reported and not 12 hours later. Though many of those Facebook comments appear to have been deleted, they still ask an important question.
Does the university or CMU Police have an obligation to notify students through the CMU alert system as soon as a crime has been reported? I can see both sides to this issue.
Say a robbery, physical assault, or sexual assault were to occur on campus. Would you want the alert system to inform you immediately or after the perpetrator was found? On one hand, people deserve to be informed.
Hopefully if all students were informed immediately on what crime occurred and where it happened, students would be able to relocate to a safer area.
In a best case scenario, maybe at least one nearby student saw the crime occur and could provide CMUPD with more information on how it happened. It also doesn’t inspire confidence in CMU’s alert system if students are left in the dark on a crime against one of their peers until hours after it transpired.
More importantly, being briefed immediately to a situation could also help students feel more safe. On the other hand, there is a chance alerting all students of a crime could simply cause panic instead of calming anyone’s fears.
With the image of panicked students in mind, one could see why being informed of the situation after the perpetrator has been arrested might be the best course of action. The people might not want to worry students with news of an ongoing crime without all information about the crime available. Spreading information without knowing all of the facts is rarely a good idea.
The best course of action is to alert students to a crime and the details surrounding it once the suspect has been found.
While I understand concerns about the university not giving information to those under its care, keep in mind that if every student were to receive a notification immediately, the perpetrator could also be notified.
Releasing all available information once the dust clears also keeps information about the crime as accurate as possible, reducing rumors.
CMU Police Chief Bill Yeagley said the department is federally required by the The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act to follow certain guidelines regarding when details of a campus crime can be released to the public.
Yeagley said the specific information of each case affects if and when information is released.
“It really does boil down to each individual scenario (having) enough issues of its own,” he said. “I firmly believe that the more information you have as a member of this community, the better position you’re in to make decisions to keep yourself safe.”
With these kinds of crimes, no solution is going to satisfy everyone.
At the end of the day, the best way to help the campus community in these situations is to release information once the proper precautions have been taken and the perpetrator has been apprehended.