Administration issues campus-wide safety alert, later modifies notice

Oswego State administration issued a safety notice on August 23 raising awareness to an unknown suspect involved in a sexual harassment case. Three days later, the college revised its original statements.

Oswego State reported that a freshman female resident of Seneca Hall was sexually harassed and later recanted, according to the campus-wide safety notices.

The first campus announcement, sent at 10:21 p.m. on Sunday, stated the female student was “accosted and subjected to unwanted physical touching” by an unknown male student during the early morning hours of August 22 and again on the morning of August 23.

According to New York State Penal Law 130.52, the term “forcible touching” is when a person “intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose, forcibly touches the sexual or other intimate parts of another person for the purpose of degrading or abusing such person; for the purpose of gratifying the actor’s sexual desire.”

According to Director of Communication and Marketing Julie Blissert, the campus-wide email was sent because the incident fell under federal law known as the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities, both public and private, participating in federal student aid programs to disclose campus safety information and imposes certain basic requirements for handling incidents of sexual violence and emergency situations.

“The reason for putting out an announcement is when you have to report an unknown person out there in a residence hall,” Blissert said. “We feel like our people, students and others, are at risk and so we have a duty to let them know that there might be somebody else to look out for.”

Unlike other past sexual harassment cases on campus, in this particular incident, the suspect was unknown, leaving the administration responsible to alert the campus of the potential harm following the incident. In the safety notice, the administration encouraged all students to be more aware of their surroundings.

After the safety notice was released with a description of the suspect’s average height, dress, tattoos and overall appearance, no one came forward with more information about the whereabouts of the suspect.

During a second interview with the victim, University Police came to the conclusion that the suspect had no intentions to commit a sexual crime and that his actions were better defined as harassment, according to University Police Chief John Rossi.

“Our investigator got several more details during the second interview where [the victim] wasn’t as emotionally distressed as the first interview, and then we were able to determine that the proper charge would be simple harassment,” Rossi said.

After re-interviewing the victim, University Police declared the incident as a harassment case and the victim recanted with the decision to drop all charges against the suspect.

The original campus announcement was released briefly describing the incident and the suspect as described by the victim.

A second campus-wide email was sent out on August 26 updating students that the victim recanted and that no charges of falsely reporting an incident were being issued, due to the specifics of the case.

University Police has viewed 24-hours of video footage from the lobby areas and the exterior doors of Seneca Hall.  They have not determined a positive identification of the suspect. Although the victim is no longer a student at Oswego State, the investigation is still on going.