Politics & Policy

The Corner

Can Someone Help Me? I’m Really, Truly Confused About a Campus Issue

Ok, here’s the first item. Apparently the Obama administration believes that universities so super-dangerous that even prisoners are safer from sexual assault than college students:

The Obama administration has produced new statistics on prison rape which, taken in conjunction with its widespread claims about college campuses, imply that women and even men are safer from rape in prison than they are on college campuses.

In a recent report from the White House states that 8.5 percent of female inmates and 3.7 percent of male inmates experience sexual assault while in prison. More than half of these incidents are committed by prison and jail staff, though the report acknowledges that “many abuse incidents in prisons involve other inmates as perpetrators.”

If one takes these statistics at face value and compares them to other widely reported statistics used by the White House on campus sexual assault, one could conclude that sexual assault is far more common on college campuses than in America’s prisons. After all, the Obama administration loves to tout deeply flawed self-reported surveys showing 20 percent of women and 5 to 8 percent of men are sexually assaulted on college campuses over a four-year college career.

This would mean that men are twice as likely and women nearly three times as likely to be raped on a college campus as they are in prison.

Moreover, anyone who follows the literature on this subject knows that feminists blame this astronomical sexual assault rate on a class of “repeat predators” who commit “9 out of every 10 rapes.”

But wait, leftist “ban the box” activists who are seeking to admit more convicts to college (mainly because felons are disproportionately black and Latino) tell us that college life is really super-safe and a few more felons won’t increase risks:

Data available from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE), Campus Safety and Security show that college communities are far safer than the community at-large. The OPE data are collected under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act and the Higher Education Opportunity Act that requires all U.S. colleges receiving Title IV funding (federal student aid programs) collect and report data on selected crimes.

Specifically, according to the U.S. Department of Education (Robers et al. 2014), in 2011, there were a total 30,400 reported criminal incidents oncampus.17 In 2010, there was a total of 15 murders on campuses which translates to 0.1 per 100,000 students. In contrast, in that same year, among the general population, there were 15,399 homicides, a rate of five per 100,000. The consistently low rates of campus crime prompted the U.S. Department of Education to conclude “students on the campuses of post-secondary institutions [are] significantly safer than the nation as a whole.”

And what about the sexual “repeat predators?” Never you mind:

Rape and sexual assault are the only crimes on campus that have rates comparable to or even higher than in the general population (Fisher et al. 2000; Hart 2003; Baum & Klaus 2005; Sampson 2002). They are also the crimes that appear to be on the increase: U.S. Department of Education data reported that sexual assaults at colleges rose by 79 percent from 2001 to 2012. Yet the key factors associated with sexual assault on campus are alcohol and drug use and not past criminal justice system involvement. Most research and reports describe the perpetrators as members of fraternities who are often inebriated, with many sexual assaults taking place at campus parties.

Help me with the reasoning here. As I follow all this “research,” college is horribly unsafe for women due to a class of previously-clean frat boy superpredators — but it’s otherwise a completely secure environment that won’t be rendered less secure by admitting people who’ve been convicted of, say, rape, sexual assault, assault, robbery, or other crimes of violence?

That seems to be the only way this works. Otherwise, I’m left with the conclusion that college activists make whatever argument they need to make to advance their favorite interest group. But since colleges are dominated by communities of scholars — our nation’s most elite intellects — that can’t be the case, right? 

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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