By Sarah-Lyn Subhan
From 2013-2015, a total of eight hate crimes have been reported at seven of the 14 Pennsylvania State System universities, according to statistics released by each university. Of the seven, KU had the most hate crimes reported during that period, with two.
The crimes were recorded under the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990, known as the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act or simply the Clery Act, and released in each university’s Annual Fire Safety and Security Report. Two crimes were committed in 2013, four crimes in 2014 and two crimes in 2015.
The 2013 crimes include a simple assault motivated by sexual orientation at Cheyney and racially motivated intimidation at East Stroudsburg. The 2014 crimes include one racially motivated vandalism at Edinburo, one racially motivated intimidation at Lock Haven and two racially motivated vandalisms at KU. The 2015 crimes include one racially motivated harassment and one religiously motivated vandalism at Indiana.
Bloomsburg, California, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester recorded no hate crimes from 2013-2015.
The police decide what is a hate crime based on the evidence presented and how it fits the definition of a hate crime. According to the Clery Act, the offense must have “evidence that the victim was intentionally selected because of the perpetrator’s bias against the victim.”
The Clery Act defines bias as: a preformed negative opinion or attitude toward a group of persons based on their race, gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity or national origin.
“It’s a lot easier to count the vandalisms as what’s written at face value rather than guess the person’s intentions,” said John Dillion, Chief of Police at KU.
For vandalisms, such as those that have occurred at KU, the harmful intent and purpose can be difficult to prove. However, each reported incident is investigated.
“Vandalism used to be more a problem,” Dillon said. “After educating the public about vandalism as a drain crime, and that the cost of repairs is taken out the tuition, the numbers of vandalisms has gone down over the years.”
Vandalism is a low grade offense, however, in Pennsylvania, if ethnic intimidation or hateful intent can be proven the offender can be charged one grade higher.
The Clery Act was signed into law in 1990. It is named after Jeanne Clery, a Lehigh University student who was raped and murdered in her dorm room in 1986. It also established the Timely Warning System which was established to warn students and employees of crimes and educate the population on campus security policies.
The Clery Act uses three categories of offenses: criminal, hate crime and violence against women.
Criminal offenses include criminal homicide, manslaughter by negligence, sexual assault (rape, fondling, incest and statutory rape), robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, and arson.
The violence against women offenses (added by the Violence Against Women Act) include dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.
The universities are required to publish the Annual Fire Safety and Security Report which includes three years of statistics. The reports were obtained from each universities’ website.
This investigation follows reports of the increase in hate crimes reported by Southern Poverty Law Center after the 2016 presidential election. Incidents include bomb threats to both mosques and synagogues as well as the rise of white nationalist propaganda.
Nearby hate groups include Poker Face, a producer of hate music, The Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ, a black separatists group, and The Right Stuff, a white nationalist group known for its podcast the “Daily Shoah.”
In February 2017 KU was one of many universities to have Identity Evropa recruitment posters appear on campus. SPLC identifies Identity Evropa as white nationalist group. The KU police do not believe any students were involved.
The rise of hateful propaganda has sparked debates about free speech.
“While we must keep in mind that all individuals have the right to free speech on our campus, our university rejects all forms of racism, bigotry and discrimination,” KU President Kenneth Hawkinson said in a statement released in February.
“People have the absolute right to show how ignorant and stupid they can be,” said Dillon.