By Emma Johansen-Hewitt
Who do you go to when something bad happens? Who do you talk to when you need help or advice? When you’re in a potentially dangerous situation? Many students on campus have mentors on campus, who they feel comfortable talking to when they need guidance.
However, there are some faculty and staff on campus who act as mandated reporters. These mandated reporters are trained, and must report certain suspicious activity. If they feel a student is in significant danger, or that a crime has occurred, they must report it.
The Clery Act, which is the federal law that requires colleges across the US to disclose information about crimes on campuses, mandates that “Campus security authorities” are legally required to report any crimes they are made aware of. The Clery Act defines a “campus security authority” as an individual who has “significant responsibility for student and campus activities.”
According to the Bridgewater State University Policy on Reporting Crimes Occurring on Campus, examples of “campus security authorities” as they fall under the Clery Act includes the vice president for student affairs, athletic directors and team coaches, faculty advisors to student groups, student RAs, and a coordinator of Greek Affairs. Examples of those who do not qualify as “campus security authorities” include cafeteria staff, and faculty who are not responsible for student affairs beyond the classroom.
How does this affect students ability to go to faculty they trust after experiencing a traumatic event, or hearing about one and wondering how to proceed? Students have differing opinions on the issue. Some seem to think that the institution of mandated reporters can only help the situation, while others feel it might prevent students from seeking counsel from trusted mentors.
Katherine Nazzaro, a sophomore English major who plans on becoming a teacher, believes mandated reporters help the situation far more often than they can hurt it. “As somebody who is going to be a mandated reporter after college, I feel that it makes the whole situation much more safe,” said Nazzaro. “I’d rather say something and be wrong, than not say something and have something horrible happen.”
Not all students believe that mandated reporters are always a good thing. Hannah Green, a junior English major, expressed concerns. “I can see the positives of mandatory reporters, but I do think students will be more cautious when speaking to mandatory reporters,” said Green. “It’s not that people want to avoid being helped or want to break rules, it’s that they want to confide in somebody and know that it’s in confidence. A lot of the time, speaking to someone is the first step to getting further help. If they felt okay about going to the authorities immediately, they’d be going to the authorities. I know a lot of people who have authority issues, and they won’t confide in authorities because they don’t trust them.”
All counseling professionals on campus are not required to report any crimes under the Clery Act, and are good resources for those seeking advice on how to handle crimes.
In order to make the campus a safe environment for all, students are encouraged to reach out and report any crimes they encounter to the BSU Police, as they feel safe to do so.
The counseling services offered at the Health and Wellness Center in Weygand are often a good first step for those who have witnessed or been the victim of a crime. Students should also feel comfortable seeking help from trusted faculty and staff, including mandated reporters, who are there for your safety.
The counseling center can be reached at 508.531.1331, and the BSU police can be reached at 508.531.1212.
Emma Johansen-Hewitt is a Comment staff writer. Follow her on Twitter at @emjohansen.