UNH looks to update stalking policy
Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 01:10
The issue of stalking is a concern for students and faculty alike, but does it receive enough formal recognition from the university itself?
Student Body President Bryan Merrill does not believe it does. Merrill said that there are only two lines in the Student Rights, Rules and Responsibility (SRRR) that address the issue in any manner. He adds that of the two, there is only one “which is actually codified in a way that has formal impact.”
“The current setup of the SRRR is such that stalking is very simply integrated into an existing punitive framework,” Merrill said. “I would like to see it expanded out, defined and further formalized to ensure that there exists clearer expectations and guidelines in regards to this quite prevalent issue.”
“Stalking is a much more substantial issue than one might think,” he said.
Merrill cited a 2012 report titled “Incidences of Stalking and Physical Relationship Violence Experiences at UNH” detailing experiences of physical violence and stalking at UNH. According to the report, of the 4,406 undergraduates surveyed, 35 percent of women and 26 percent of men reported experiences with stalking. The report also stated that college age women are the highest risk group for sexual violence.
According to Dean of Students Anne Lawing, the references to stalking in the SRRR include a specific definition of the term found in Article III of the current Student Code of Conduct, which is listed in the SRRR.
In Article III (“Proscribed Conduct”), under section C (“Conduct Rules and Regulations”), stalking is defined as “repetitive, menacing pursuit, following, harassment and/or interference with the peace and/or safety of a member of the community.”
Lawing said that the university is in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Act, a federal regulation mandating all college and university institutions to provide information on crime statistics, prevention means and services for victims on campus. This year, stalking, along with dating violence and domestic violence, was incorporated into the act.
“Along with adding the definition in our Clery brochure, we have added stalking to our training materials for our Campus Security Authorities,” Lawing said. “CSAs are people who are responsible for significant campus activities or those to whom a crime could be reported.”
Merrill and Student Body Vice President Will McKernan both said that the Office of the Student Body President and the Student Senate are taking steps towards addressing this issue. The Student Senate is currently working to add a formal stalking policy to the SRRR.
This project will be spearheaded by Brett Branscombe, the chair of the Student Senate Judicial Affairs Council, who will handle the initiative’s legal aspects, and by Stephanie Kuhn, the chair of the Community Development Council, who will deal with implementation and design.
McKernan also said that the student government is looking for input on the policy from the UNH community. This might take the form of a community dialogue or forum, though McKernan said that nothing is definitive yet.
“We want to ensure that we are making decisions as a community rather than an assembly,”McKernan said.
McKernan described the Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) as a catalyst for this initiative by bringing the issue to the attention of the student government.
Amy Culp, the interim-director of SHARPP, said she believes that UNH – while a relatively safe community – still needs to address stalking, and the trends that it has taken on in the present day.
“The trends of stalking have changed due to technology,” Culp said. “Cyberstalking is something we see often and yet, it continues to be underreported. The laws are not up to the current trends, which is problematic for prosecution.”
Culp said that the mission of SHARPP is to “eliminate sexual and intimate partner violence.” The organization provides free and confidential services and advocacy to survivors, and offers awareness and prevention programs to the UNH community.
SHARPP also cooperates with the University of New Hampshire Police Department to provide educational programs to the UNH community.