It’s 10:20 p.m. on a Friday, and students walk back from the evening’s activities, their paths home lit by light posts and the glowing clock tower.
It is hard to tell from the outside whether these late night travelers are comfortable walking home by themselves. A recent report on BackgroundChecks.org may or may not ease their minds.
The report listed Dixie State University as No. 45 among 50 of the United States’ safest college campuses. The website took data from campus crime reports for public and private four-year universities that have at least 5,000 students enrolled.
However, the website only pulled data from reports that are three years old.
Although it’s nice to know the campus was safe on paper in 2013, it makes sense to wonder where the data can be found for the last three years, and if DSU is still considered a safe campus today.
Sgt. Sam Despain of the St. George Police department said he considers DSU and the St. George area to be a safe community.
“For the most part we see that [DSU] and St. George is a safe, safe community,” Despain said.
Until a week ago, the previous couple years of campus crime reports were not updated on the DSU’s website. The latest version of crime stats can now be found online, including stats from previous years up until 2014, but there are critics who said they believe this information should have been available to the public sooner.
Don Reid, chief of campus security and police, said one reason the website took so long to update is because of a recent move of the campus security office. He said if they hadn’t moved, the crime statistics for 2014 would have been available earlier.
“I don’t think that a recent move of their office would really excuse not having numbers up there for the past four years,” said Stephanie Spainhower, who is a junior English major from St. George and outreach coordinator at the Dove Center.
According to CleryAct.info, the Clery Act requires colleges and universities, both public and private, participating in federal student aid programs to disclose campus safety information and basic requirements for handling incidents of sexual violence and emergency situations. Disclosures about crime statistics and summaries of security policies are made once a year in an annual security report, and information about specific crimes and emergencies is made available on an ongoing basis throughout the year.
“We’d have to get pretty cynical to believe that for some reason we would want to hide [crime statistics],” Reid said. “That is something we’ve been doing long before it was federal law.”
Reid said anyone who wants an updated crime report can contact the campus security office. He said he hopes to set up a program similar to SUU where crime reports are updated on a monthly basis.
Spainhower said she feels safe going to school at DSU.
“I do feel like [DSU] is a pretty safe campus,” Spainhower said. “I go to school there, and then I also work here where I see people who have been victimized but are surviving every day and are still going to school.”
Spainhower said it is common for colleges to report numbers that don’t match up for sexual assault crimes. She said she has noticed DSU has a similar tendency with its reporting.
“At least one in five women in Utah colleges are going to be sexually assaulted before they graduate, so where are they?” Spainhower said. “We’re not seeing them in crime reporting at all.”
“We have never at any point in time withheld any crime statistics,” Reid said.
For the year 2014, the DSU campus crime report lists zero sexual assault crimes on campus. This is a stark contrast to what KUTV reported last October about St. George having about 80 new victims of domestic violence per month.
“Something is missing,” Spainhower said. “There’s something that isn’t being reported or communicated to back up the statistic that [the Dove Center] knows is true.”