On Monday, Feb. 27, every student at Binghamton University received a B-Line Addition in their email inboxes. The message detailed an attempted sexual assault that took place on campus and offered a description of a suspect still at large.
“On Sunday evening, Feb. 26, a female Binghamton University student reported to the Binghamton’s New York State University Police Department that she was the victim of an attempted sexual assault in her residence hall room,” the message read. “She stated that a man she did not know followed her into her residence hall.”
The email continued to further detail the attack.
“When she arrived at her room, she stated the suspect was in her doorway and when she pushed him away, he attempted to assault her,” the message read. “The victim stated she was able to fight him off until her suitemates arrived home and the suspect then apologized and fled.”
The warning startled many students across campus and led some to wonder why the University opted to inform the community about this specific incident.
According to Ryan Yarosh, director of media and public relations at BU, the messages are required by a federal law known as the Clery Act.
The Clery Act is named for Jeanne Clery, a 19-year-old student at Lehigh University who was raped and murdered in her dormitory in 1986. Her murder triggered a nationwide movement to improve the reporting of crimes on college campuses.
The act requires, among other things, that universities issue what it calls “timely warnings” after a crime occurs on or near campus. The Department of Education maintains strict requirements related to these timely warnings for all universities that participate in federal financial aid programs.
“The warning should include all information that would promote safety and that would aid in the prevention of similar crimes,” reads the department’s Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting. “Issuing a warning that cautions the campus community to be careful or to avoid certain practices or places is not sufficient.”
The Clery Act also mandates that universities publish an annual security report, which BU does every year. The act requires universities to report on a variety of serious offenses, including murder, sexual violence and arson. In 2014, new amendments were made to require reporting on domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.
BU’s most recent report was released in October 2016 and details crimes committed over the previous three years.
From 2013 to 2015, the report details 17 reports of sexual crimes. In 2013, sexual crimes were divided into forcible and nonforcible offenses. BU reported two forcible and zero nonforcible sex offenses in that year.
As a result of the 2014 amendments, sexual offenses were re-categorized as either rape or fondling. BU reported one arrest for rape and four for fondling in 2014. In 2015, the report details seven reported rapes and three instances of fondling.
As of March 15, UPD said that they are actively investigating the Feb. 26 incident.
“Witnesses described the suspect as a dark-skinned male, approximately 30 years of age, 5’8’ tall and 160 pounds, with very short black hair and a receding hairline,” the B-Line Addition read. “Witnesses stated the suspect had a very thick accent, and that he was wearing a white, short-sleeved, V-neck shirt and blue jeans.”
Anyone with any knowledge of this incident is encouraged to contact the UPD at 607-777-2393.