La Salle Takes Four Days to Notify Students of Off-Campus Gang Rape

Around 10 p.m. on Easter Sunday, four men reportedly kidnapped and gang-raped a 20-year-old La Salle University student who was walking along 10th and W. Louden streets, approximately a mile and a half from campus. Police say the assailants pulled the student into a black van and drove her to a second location, where they “subjected her to a series of brutal sexual assaults.” The suspects — one of whom, police say, has the letters “MM” tattooed on his face — are still at large.

Yet La Salle officials didn’t send out a prompt warning or advisory to students, who were left to find out about the incident from the media and word of mouth. The school’s media relations director, Jon Caroulis, told NBC Philadelphia that the case did not fit the criteria of the federal law that requires universities to issue emergency notifications of any immediately threatening dangers on campus, saying:

“Based on what we know, (which we cannot detail) it was decided a safety alert/advisory was not required, as we believed there was no serious or ongoing threat to our students or employees as a result of the reported incident.”

Four days after the attack, school officials finally notified students of the incident in a “Safety Reminder” that also offered a familiar list of common-sense protocols such as “Travel in well-lit areas” and “Report suspicious persons.”

Asked why the delayed response, Caroulis declined to comment but emailed PW a prepared statement, reiterating what he’d previously told NBC and adding: “While we are not able to discuss specifics of the case with our students and employees, we did issue a safety reminder to the campus community, as we often do, to encourage everyone to be mindful of their surroundings wherever they are in the city. … As information about the case (which is able to be shared) becomes available, we will continue to update the campus community through our Web portal.”

Though news media even as far away as the UK’s Daily Mail have pointed out La Salle’s delayed public response, none have mentioned that the university has every reason to be clear on the terms of the law, known as the Clery Act: Back in 2006, the school was cited by the U.S. Department of Education for not having complied with the act in two previous cases of alleged sexual assault. That case, involving members of the school’s basketball team, led to the resignations of two coaches, and the Department of Education concluded that the school’s officials had failed to issue “timely warnings” of threats to the safety and security of the campus community, among other related failures. Perhaps worth noting: According to the Department of Education’s report, La Salle disagreed with that conclusion at the time.

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