Incidents of reported online harassment increase at Temple

Most reported instances to Campus Safety Services are not related to in-person harassment

Temple’s Campus Safety Services building is located on 12th Street near Montgomery Avenue. Online harassment cases are the second most reported crime on Temple’s campus. | ALLIE IPPOLITO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

During the fall semester, harassment has remained the leading crime on The Temple News’ Crime Dashboard, which offers a breakdown of incidents reported to Temple University’s Campus Safety Services, with most instances being related to online harassment.

Harassment occurs when someone repeatedly touches, talks to or follows another person with the intent of annoying or alarming them, according to The Temple News Crime Dashboard.

Reports of harassment on Main Campus significantly increased throughout the 2010s, more than doubling from 86 reports in 2013 to 194 reports in 2019. Campus Safety Services reported 110 harassment offenses in 2020 — a 45-percent decline from 2019 — largely because there were fewer students on campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Campus Safety Services received more harassment cases during the last year involving the use of texting and social media than in-person harassment cases in comparison to previous years, said Charles Leone, executive director of Campus Safety Services. 

The Wellness Resource Center, which provides harassment prevention education and health services to students, is seeing more reports of harassment, particularly sexual harassment on dating apps, said Liz Zadnik, associate director of the Wellness Resource Center. 

“There have been changed personal dating behaviors because of COVID, and now you have a video date and people non-consensually showing parts of their body,” Zadnik said.

Campus Safety Services use Pennsylvania crime codes to classify harassment as following a person in public places, communicating to a person in a lewd or a threatening manner or communicating with someone repeatedly at an inconvenient time or in an anonymous manner, Leone said. 

Harassment often goes unidentified at the university because students do not feel comfortable reporting cases of harassment or do not understand that they are experiencing harassment, said Andrea Seiss, Title IX coordinator.

If a university student is accused of harassment, a Student Conduct Code referral is made which may result in an investigation and disciplinary action, Leone said. The complainant can also file criminal charges with the Office of the District Attorney, he said. 

The Title IX office conducts a full investigation when a student has been harassed, which differs from the Student Conduct Code process because there is a cross-examination of the complainant party and respondent party by Title IX advisors, Seiss said. 

Disciplinary action can include suspension, expulsion and disenrollment from the university in addition to criminal charges, Leone said. 

Campus safety encourages complainants to file a Private Criminal Complaint at the Philadelphia Office of the District Attorney, Leone said. This complaint allows students being harassed to pursue legal actions that the university can not offer, he said. 

“Almost 90 percent of the time that someone who is harassed knows the one who harmed them,” Zadnik said. “It is a roommate or a former roommate or a date or intimate partner or classmate.” 

More than 88 percent of all students experiencing harassing behavior identified the harasser as another student, according to the Association of American Universities. 

“Harassment should be reported,” Leone said. “Pay close attention to who receives your personal cell phone number and social media accounts.”

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