Improve campus safety

For many years, standard practice on many college and university campuses was to minimize, even cover up actively, reports of crime affecting students. That is changing, in some measure because of federal law insisting on honest campus crime reporting.

With that in mind, reports of crime at institutions of higher learning need to be viewed cautiously. Sometimes, apparent crime waves reflect only failure to report in the past, not true upsurges.

Still, a report from Ohio State University is troubling. The number of reported crimes in nearly every category increased. University officials say that may be due, in part, to a new practice of logging any reported crime, even if its specific location is unknown.

But one specific portion of the report is particularly concerning. The number of rapes on campus reported for 2016 was more than twice the figure for the previous year, it was disclosed recently. There were 61 rapes reported in 2016, compared to 25 in 2015.

OSU officials say more students living on campus — newly opened student housing facilities have led to about 30 percent more students living on the Columbus campus — combined with more willingness to report sexual assaults, are to blame.

Perhaps. But university officials should analyze the reports in depth, to ensure the increase in assaults did not represent something else.

If people have become more open to discussing and reporting sexual assault, that is a good thing. For decades, an apparent sense of shame reportedly kept many victims from coming forward to report they were attacked, let alone to identify and accuse their attacker.

But if the risk to women has increased, OSU officials need to do something about it.

If one statistic in the report — that one in five female undergraduate students has been victimized by nonconsensual sexual contact — is accurate, something is wrong.

If they hesitate to recognize that, OSU officials ought to ask a few parents if they consider one-in-five odds that their daughters will be assaulted to be acceptable.

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