National Desk Massachusetts Campus Tense After Attacks on Women By
The New York Times
AMHERST, Mass., Nov. 20 - Emerging slightly dazed from an exam into the
brisk early evening air, Sarah Shumaker was approached by three fellow students who offered to accompany her to her destination
at the University of Massachusetts here. The conversation took place just yards from where a series of attacks on women had
occurred in recent weeks. Two reported being raped.
Ms. Shumaker, a 21-year-old English major, declined
the offer of an escort because she did not have far to go and because two patrol cars and several uniformed police officers
were also milling around the area. Later, she expressed her thoughts on walking around campus.
kind of a bad attitude, but you expect this kind of a thing, being a woman," Ms. Shumaker said. "It's really hard being a
Three of the attacks took place on successive Tuesdays. The latest, in which a woman was
grabbed from behind and cut on the face with a knife, occurred last week, just before 2 p.m., less than 100 yards from where
500 people were holding a rally for campus safety. In another incident, last Sunday, a woman reported being assaulted with
pepper spray and punched by three men in the same area.
The university's police chief, John Luippold,
would not speculate on whether a single individual was involved in the Tuesday attacks, but he acknowledged similarities in
the descriptions offered by the three victims of the Tuesday assaults: a white, college-age man with a muscular build. A state
police forensics unit is studying the knife used in the last attack.
The attacks come at a time when
reports of rape are on the rise on college campuses, and when federal requirements for reporting campus crime are undergoing
a major overhaul.
Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics show that rapes on 476 campuses across
the country rose 11.4 percent last year, to 402 from 361 in 1997, while other violent crime increased only slightly. Experts
warn, however, that rapes are significantly underreported and that the vast majority of those that are reported involve an
attacker known to the victim.
The University of Massachusetts at Amherst, with 25,422 students, reported
more "forcible sex offenses" in 1996 and 1997 than any university in the country other than Colorado State University and
the University of Southern California, both of which have slightly larger student populations, statistics published by The
Chronicle of Higher Education last May show. Fifty-one other colleges had a larger enrollment in the nation in the fall of
1996, but The Chronicle cautions against comparing institutions because of variations in how crimes are reported in different
states and schools.
The Campus Security Act of 1990 mandated that all colleges compile and publish
statistics on a specified list of crimes. New regulations published this month by the federal Education Department seek to
make crime statistics more comprehensive and uniform by, among other things, stipulating that crimes in areas adjacent to
campuses be included in published reports. The regulations will take effect in July.
The two rapes
and two assaults reported here since Nov. 2 are highly unusual because of their nature and their frequency, said Howard Clery
III, who monitors campus crime from an office in King of Prussia, Pa., for Security on Campus Inc., which his family founded
after his sister, Jeanne Clery, was raped and killed at Lehigh University 13 years ago.
Two of the
attacks were reported to have taken place in broad daylight, and three occurred in a heavily traveled part of campus, by a
pond bordered by thick bushes.
As another Tuesday approaches, the climate on campus is "very fearful,"
said a spokesman for the student government, Jared Brooslin.
The university has trimmed the bushes
around the pond and is making available 10,000 alarms that create a loud screeching noise when a pin is pulled.
Students are taking action, too. Members of a group called Pond Watch, wearing orange armbands and traveling in groups
of at least three, offer campus escorts to people like Ms. Shumaker. And the student government is planning another rally
for Tuesday, hoping that it will be the first free of attacks in a month.