Reporting policies vary at Iowa's private colleges

The Fairfield Ledger/March 5, 2004
By Erik Gable

Some colleges automatically report incidents such as the Monday afternoon classroom attack at M.U.M. to police; others have no formal policy.

In the days following Monday evening's fatal stabbing on the Maharishi University of Management campus, questions arose about the university's handling of an assault that happened earlier the same day.

Shuvender Sem, the 24-year-old student from Pennsylvania charged with stabbing M.U.M. freshman Levi Butler to death in the university's dining hall, had allegedly attacked another student in class Monday afternoon, stabbing him in the face with a pen.

After the assault, Joel Wysong, the university's dean of men, took Sem into his custody. According to Wysong's account, Wysong took the student back to his own apartment, where they made arrangements for Sem to return home the following day. After about three hours, while Wysong was in another room, he heard Sem leave the apartment. Wysong found Sem in Annapurna Dining Hall and sat down about 30 feet away to keep an eye on him; about 10 minutes later, the stabbing occurred. The paring knife used in the stabbing had been taken from Wysong's apartment.

After the fatal stabbing of Butler, when authorities learned of the previous incident, they filed an aggravated assault charge against Sem in addition to the first-degree murder charge.

Critics, many of whom called The Fairfield Ledger or posted their opinions on the newspaper's Web site at, charged the university with negligence for not calling the police after the first incident.

University officials said they had no reason to believe Sem was a danger to other students. They also said it is not the university's policy to press criminal charges against its own students.

The Fairfield Ledger asked several private colleges in Iowa about their crime reporting policies. Of the six who responded to the request in time for today's paper, some have policies in place requiring the police to be contacted if a student assaults another student and some do not. Most of the administrators consulted, however, said they would probably report such an assault to local authorities.

At Drake University in Des Moines, if campus authorities are aware of an assault, they typically involve the Des Moines Police Department.

"If an assault is reported to us," said Capt. Les Wheeler of the Drake security office, "we're very likely to report it to the police department."

"Typically, it's been our policy to report assaults to the police," said Tom Crady, vice president for student services at Grinnell College in Grinnell. An exception, Crady said, is sometimes made if the victim of a sexual assault does not want the incident reported.

Crady said it's difficult to say what action Grinnell administrators would have taken if they were in M.U.M.'s shoes, but "any time there's a crime on campus that poses a risk to campus, we want to involve the police."

"We would certainly take action, there's no doubt about that," he said, but added it's hard to tell exactly what that action would have been.

Edie Huss, director of campus safety and security for Loras College in Dubuque, said Loras would "absolutely" follow up with local police on an incident such as the classroom attack.

"We definitely would have involved them," she said, adding that notifying police is written into the college's policy.

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