Ex-Officer Says Occidental Sat on Anonymous Reports of Sex Assaults | The Informer | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Sex Crimes

Ex-Officer Says Occidental Sat on Anonymous Reports of Sex Assaults

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Mon, May 5, 2014 at 12:13 PM
click to enlarge Occidental College at night. - JASON BACHE
A former campus safety officer at Occidental College tells L.A. Weekly that from 2009 to 2013, administrators never gave him any reports of sexual assaults made anonymously - even though college officials are required by federal law to give these reports to the safety office. "Nothing ever came to our department," Edward Cunje says, raising questions about  whether reports were, in some cases, omitted from the official record. 

Cunje's revelation comes as Oxy tries to emerge from a national controversy that erupted last year when college administrators were accused by a group of students and professors of covering up sexual assaults on campus.
click to enlarge ILLUSTRATION BY PATRICK FARICY
  • Illustration by Patrick Faricy
Cunje - a towering man with a gentle disposition - worked alongside his father, Joseph Cunje, who climbed the ranks during his 30 years at Oxy to become the lieutenant overseeing campus safety.

The father-son team were let go within six months of each other after each took a medical leave for different reasons. According to the Occidental campus newspaper, in reaction to an uproar on campus over his termination in February, Joseph Cunje's staff position was several days ago changed from "terminated" to "leave of absence" and he will be allowed to retire in 2018.  

Before Edward Cunje left Oxy last year, he says that part of his job was to record in a daily crime log every campus crime reported in person or via phone call or written report by students, faculty, visitors and others.

The daily crime log was then used to create the college's annual "Clery" report, a federally mandated document that tracks campus crime, including sexual violence. 

The Cunjes took pride in keeping the campus safe. "Our job is to protect the students," says Edward Cunje. "And we did that." 

Occidental has an anonymous reporting form for those who want to report sexual violence without using their names.

According to Jim Tranquada, an Occidental spokesman, the filled-out anonymous forms went to the Dean of Students' office as well as Project SAFE, a program dedicated to addressing sexual assault on campus. 

Tranquada says that 20 anonymous reports were filed in 2010, three in 2011, and four in 2012.

Of the 20 filed in 2010, he says, 19 were from a survey conducted by Project SAFE, and not via the anonymous reporting form.

But Cunje says all anonymous forms should then have been turned over to the campus safety office so Cunje could record them. Between 2009 and 2013, he says, he never saw a single anonymous report. 

"Nothing ever came to our department," Cunje insists. When no anonymous sexual reports came across his desk, "I just assumed no one used [the form]," he explains. His father declined to comment for this story.

The federal Clery Act doesn't spell out how to handle anonymous sexual assault reports, but experts have interpreted the Act - as well as the Department of Education's guidelines for reporting campus crime - as requiring that the existence of anonymous reports, and their specific numbers, be made public. 

Cunje's allegation suggests the school may have left some reports of sexual violence out of their annual numbers, which would be a violation of federal law.

Occidental adamantly denies that anything was left out. In an email, Tranquada says, "It has been the College's practice to include anonymous reports in its Clery numbers, including for the years 2010, 2011, and 2012." 

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