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Carey and Klawunn: Timely warnings important for safety

On Friday, we issued a timely warning to all students of an alleged crime involving the provision of drinks containing a date-rape drug and an alleged sexual assault that occurred Oct. 17. The notice included relevant information including the time, date and location of the reported incidents to enable students to protect themselves from what we judged, based on the evidence gathered to date, to be an ongoing threat to members of the University community. While the Department of Public Safety has routinely issued such warnings, which are required under the Clery Act, they usually involve incidents such as robberies or assaults committed by perpetrators unaffiliated with Brown.

Because this incident involved potential criminal activity between students, which typically has not met the criteria for a timely warning when reported in the past, we felt it was important to explain what is required by the Clery Act and why this particular timely warning was issued. A timely warning is the report of a credible allegation and should not be interpreted as a determination of responsibility.

Under the Clery Act, institutions like Brown have a mandatory federal requirement to issue campus alerts regarding certain crimes in a timely manner. Because the intent is to enable community members to protect themselves, a warning must be issued as soon as the pertinent information is available. The Department of Education guidelines make clear that warnings should be issued even when an institution does not have all the facts surrounding a criminal incident or incidents. The timely communication of information must take first priority — colleges and universities can provide additional information as it becomes available.

The guidelines around the Clery Act have changed over time, especially in recent years with regard to sexual violence including the use of date-rape drugs. Recent guidance from the federal government indicates that credible reports of the provision of date-rape drugs represent an ongoing threat to a campus community and should be considered carefully as cause for timely warnings.

As the investigation into the Oct. 17 incidents unfolded, it became clear to us that the information presented was credible and serious and met the criteria for a timely warning. The behavior in question, if true, is a violation of the standards of student conduct, Rhode Island criminal law and the values we hold as a community. It is also extraordinarily dangerous and can enable the infliction of serious harm on others. We had no doubt that a campus alert was called for.

Many students have expressed support of our decision to issue this alert. We have heard concerns, however, that the warning unfairly labeled a specific student organization and its members by stating the location of the incident. This is an inherent risk in timely warnings. In general, timely warnings about any type of alleged crime must provide information that community members can use to protect themselves, including the appearance of alleged perpetrators, if known, and the location and time at which the incident occurred. Suppressing information of this type undermines the intent of the warning, which is to help members of the community protect themselves from harm.

Further to this point, under longstanding Brown University policy, student organizations assume responsibility — in return for the many privileges they receive — for the conduct of their members and guests. That responsibility comes with real consequences — consequences that increase when an organization hosts an unauthorized social function, serves alcohol without permission to do so and violates University policy and state law by serving alcohol to minors.

We do not believe all members of any organization or any community at Brown are perpetrators of sexual violence or predatory behavior, such as that demonstrated by the use of date-rape drugs. Organizations and communities, however, will not be shielded from accountability for criminal actions that take place within their walls. In this case, we have not reached any conclusion about an organization’s responsibility for the allegations.

Our primary concern in these matters is the health and safety of the Brown student community. We have both worked at Brown for two decades and have significant experience with the ongoing challenge of sexual violence on college campuses. Despite the efforts, time and investments of both the University and hundreds of students, faculty members and staff members to confront and eliminate sexual misconduct, it remains a grave concern.

On an encouraging note, recent local and national discussion of this issue has appeared to prompt an increase in reports of sexual misconduct from students. We suspect some of these behaviors, like drinks with date-rape drugs in them, have occurred in past years and have not been reported. An increase in reporting, which is a positive development, will likely result in an increase in the number of timely warnings that are issued.

Brown must continue to enhance all its efforts to combat sexual misconduct, by improving education, awareness and prevention efforts; issuing timely warnings about sexual assaults and related misconduct; and investigating and resolving student complaints. We have made substantial progress. We are undertaking a national search for a new Title IX program officer. Over the summer, we made improvements to our education, prevention and counseling programs. We have established the Sexual Assault Task Force, which is in the midst of a comprehensive review of our policies and practices.

The student community must also take collective responsibility for ending sexual violence on campus. The use of drugs, including alcohol, to incapacitate someone should be unacceptable to all Brown students. Sexual violence and predatory behavior at Brown should be equally unacceptable. Every student at Brown should be treated with dignity and respect, and every student at Brown is fully capable of conduct that demonstrates respect for the rights and safety of others.

We are committed to improving and expanding the resources and policies of the University to combat and eliminate sexual violence on campus. We call on all students, faculty members and staff members to similarly commit themselves to eliminating this unacceptable behavior, both in their own conduct and by intervening or reporting when they observe it in others.


Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, executive vice president for planning and policy, and Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, can be reached for comment at and


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