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A pair of aggravated assaults on white Ohio State students in the campus area Wednesday prompted a public safety notice and the classification of the incidents as hate crimes by University Police. Credit: Sarah Szilagy | Campus Editor

This week, some readers asked The Lantern questions about the public safety notice issued for a pair of aggravated assaults and what University Police classified as hate crimes that occurred in the campus area Wednesday. One such question is why the incidents, during which three white Ohio State students were assaulted after suspects called them racial slurs, were considered hate crimes.

Dan Hedman, spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, said the classification comes from the Jeanne Clery Act, a 1990 federal law that requires institutions of higher education to report certain crimes that occur on and near their campuses. The Clery Act has specific definitions and terms universities must use when reporting crimes.

According to the Department of Education’s 2016 Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting, a hate crime is a “criminal offense that manifests evidence that the victim was intentionally selected because of the perpetrator’s bias against the victim.” Under that definition, race is one of eight categories of bias.

The Clery Act considers racial bias a “preformed negative attitude toward a group of persons who possess common physical characteristics,” regardless of the race of the victim. Hedman could not speak on the specific racial slur used in the incident Wednesday due to the ongoing investigation, but he said because the suspects were of a different race than the victims, the racial slur fell under the Clery Act’s definition of a hate crime, and the university was legally obligated to report it as such. 

Hedman said it was important to note that although the university reported the incidents as hate crimes under the Clery Act, the suspects were not arrested under those charges — they were charged with felonious assault and assault. 

Readers also asked why the Department of Public Safety released the names of suspects arrested for the incident Saturday. The Lantern did not publish the names of suspects, but Hedman said the length of time between an incident and an arrest is the determining factor in the university’s naming of suspects.

“We have shared the name of charged suspects in the past in cases when the arrest was made within days of the initial notice,” Hedman said.

Names of arrestees are public information, but Hedman said it has been a long time since an incident that prompted a public safety notice resulted in an arrest shortly after it occurred. At the Columbus campus, the last time the university published the name of an arrested suspect was June 28, 2018, when University Police arrested a man for the rape and kidnapping of an Ohio State student five days after it occurred.

Editor’s note: The headline for this letter was updated at 10:06 p.m. to specify it was authored by The Lantern’s Campus editor.

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