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FACT CHECK: Arizona Senate candidate releases misleading ad about ASU safety

The ad by Senate candidate Frank Schmuck inflates incidents of sexual violence, implies that pepper spray is not allowed on campus


The Arizona State Capitol building in Phoenix pictured on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. 

Arizona Senate candidate Frank Schmuck released an attack ad against his opponent Wednesday night which includes a number of false or misleading claims about sexual violence and the non-lethal weapons policy at ASU.

“Last year at Arizona State University, police received over 2,000 reports of sexual violence,” an unnamed woman in the ad said in front of a digitally inserted photo of an ASU building. “And even worse, 19 reports of rape.” 

An ASU spokesperson disputed the veracity of those numbers in an email, pointing to the 2018 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report released by the University, also known as the Clery Report.

According to the report, there were 33 incidents of sexual assault and 34 incidents of either domestic violence, dating violence or stalking reported to the Tempe ASU police in 2017.

There were also 15 cases of sexual assault and 9 cases of either domestic violence, dating violence or stalking reported to the police on all other ASU campuses combined.

This equates to less than 100 reports of sexual violence to ASU PD in 2017, a far cry from the 2,000 cited in the campaign ad.

While some studies estimate that the number of incidents of sexual violence that occur at ASU are higher than the number of those reported to the police, the claim that 2,000 incidents were reported to ASU PD is demonstrably false. 

Another woman in the ad claims that Schmuck's opponent, Arizona Sen. Sean Bowie, put women on college campuses at risk when he voted against a bill to allow personal protection devices on college campuses.

“State Sen. Sean Bowie denied campus women their right to carry commercially approved sprays, or even a taser for protection against sexual predators," the woman says. 

The bill the ad is referring to is House Bill 2172, which proposed an amendment to Arizona higher education law that would in-effect ban Arizona colleges and universities from prohibiting the possession of non-lethal weapons on campus.

Read more: Proposed bill would allow students to carry non-lethal weapons on campus

Bowie did vote against the bill but it eventually died in the senate maintaining the Arizona Board of Regents's policy for non-lethal weapons on campus — which currently allow for small personal safety devices, including pepper spray.

The Board, which governs all three Arizona Universities, came out against the bill when it was introduced, citing their need to be able to set policies to keep students safe. The President of ABOR at the time, Eileen Klein, spoke out forcefully against the bill. 

“The Arizona Legislature gives authority to the Arizona Board of Regents to set policy for campus safety and we are continuously evaluating our policies and practices to keep students safe,” Klein wrote in the press release at the time. “The uncertainty of the changes contemplated and the potential risk to students, faculty and staff far outweighs any benefit."

Klein is now the state treasurer of Arizona as of April 2018.

Read more: Weapons on campus? Arizona House sends bill allowing non-lethal weapons on campus to Senate

The ASU spokesperson pointed to the Police Department Policy available on ASU's website which does in fact allow for "commercially approved sprays" and tasers for personal protection. 

According to the policy, "permissible personal safety and self-defense items on ABOR property include but are not limited to: over the counter, electroshock devices ... over-the-counter mace and pepper spray, knives with blades of less than 5 inches, tactical pens, tactical flashlight or strobe device, expandable or fixed baton, over the counter key ring defensive tools" and more.  

Schmuck is also using current ASU crime reports as campaign material, attacking his opponent on Twitter. 

Schmuck and Bowie both did not return multiple requests for comment before the time of publication.

Correction: The Clery Report includes incidents reported in on-campus housing both individually and included in the overall number of on-campus incidents reported. Therefore, a previous version of this article double counted some incidents of sexual violence reported to ASU PD in 2017. There were 91 incidents reported across all campuses, not 142. The article has been updated to reflect this change.

Reach the reporter at or follow @isaacdwindes on Twitter.

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