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Clery Warning implementation creates stress, concern among students

Clery Warnings sent to students tend to inspire more confusion and concern than they do information and safety. UCPD must make sure future warnings are thoroughly informative. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Andrew Raychawdhuri

Feb. 17, 2020 10:52 p.m.

For Bruins with such little time to focus on their heavy schedules, the “ignorance is bliss” mantra seems to work.

Until they receive a barrage of worrying emails that don’t seem to concern their midterm grades.

Since the start of the 2019 school year, students have received a number of emails that call the safety of UCLA’s campus into question. Sexual battery, burglaries and an assault with a deadly weapon are just a few of the crimes that have recently blown up students’ inboxes.

Those reports are part of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, a federal law that requires the issuance of Clery Timely Warnings when certain crimes, such as burglaries and sexual assaults, occur at designated locations in or around a college campus.

Previously, Clery Warnings were posted online, but were not directly communicated to all students over email. In October, an email was sent to the campus community providing students with the annual UCLA Security & Fire Safety report.

Less well-circulated was a major policy change also outlined in the message, stipulating students would now be notified about every posted Clery Warning via email.

When it comes to these timely warnings, it is important that students are informed and actually know what they mean. It isn’t helpful to change a policy without effectively informing students, especially when such updates could have a huge impact on their day-to-day lives. And in the case of crime warnings, a policy change slipped into a report that goes largely unread by the student body can make an increase in communication feel like an increase in crime itself.

UCPD Lt. Scott Scheffler said these timely warnings are issued when a crime, specified by the federal law, has occurred and when UCPD determines that there is a serious or continuing threat to students or employees.

“As of Oct. 1, timely warnings are going to be going out to all email addresses because we changed how we distributed them,” Scheffler said. “Prior to that, they were going to a different email list.”

But this has only caused more headaches for students with no knowledge of this major change.

Now, Bruins are receiving more information, but most students have never heard of a timely warning, let alone even known that there were serious crimes occurring on campus.

“When you are on campus, you feel that you are in a safe place. I have never even thought about something like that, it’s kind of surprising,” said Catherine Leger, a first-year undeclared student.

It is understandable that students would feel shocked when they receive these emails for the first time, especially when they haven’t truly been notified of this new policy change. For many students, it can be frightening to know that these crimes are happening – and it’s even more concerning when students had no idea they were going to be receiving this information.

Students are constantly hounded with emails from a variety of sources, and UCPD has continuously failed to communicate the nature of these warnings or provide any follow-up information for concerned students. Staying informed is important, but this flood of emails doesn’t seem to do Bruins any good when they’re uninformed about their purpose.

“Within this campus culture, you are pressured to do well in your classes and you already have so much on your plate, so when you have a bad day and you see one of those emails, it is like having another thing to deal with,” said Raleigh Tarver, a third-year English and African American studies student.

It isn’t to say that these emails are useless, but implementation is key. Stating a policy change in a lengthy report that few students will read is negligent at best, and it certainly won’t help students respond effectively when they see these Clery Warnings for the first time.

Communication is important, but not when it’s sprung onto Bruins unannounced. Students need to know where to find additional information if they need it and be better educated about why these timely warnings are being sent beyond a small section in an obscure report.

“I would honestly have no idea where I would go to get the conclusion of what happened and I wish that was more available,” Tarver said. “Often these stories are shared and nothing happens and there is no action towards creating a safer environment on campus. You’re on your own, pretty much.”

However, Scheffler said the increase in timely warnings is not necessarily due to more crime, but simply a change in the way UCPD has been communicating these timely warnings.

“It’s not anything to panic about. It’s not anything that anyone should get stressed about,” Scheffler said. “The reason we put it out is because we want people to be aware so that they can take any necessary precautions and be safe.

Of course, it is vital that students are kept up to date with what happens on campus. These timely warnings would seem to serve that goal, and increased communication from UCPD is a step in the right direction.

But more information can be a double-edged sword.

When it comes to college students who aren’t prepared for this barrage of information, these timely warnings often cause more unnecessary strain than they relieve. UCLA and UCPD’s primary goal should be to make sure that students feel safe so that they can focus on the important aspects of their college career.

In order for that to happen, the timely warning system needs to be improved – along with greater communication about the purpose these warnings serve in the first place.

After all, Bruins have enough things on their minds already.

Crime on campus shouldn’t be one of them.

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Andrew Raychawdhuri | Opinion columnist
Raychawdhuri is an Opinion columnist.
Raychawdhuri is an Opinion columnist.
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