Back in 1986, Howard and Connie Cleary’s daughter, Jeanne, students at Lehigh University, has been killed on campus. Along with founding the non profit Security on Campus, Inc. in 1987, they lobbied to get a new national law which could require schools and colleges to reveal both ongoing and yearly reports on campus crime and security policy college confidential.
Originally commissioned by the Congress in 1990 as the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990, the law has been appointed as a member of their Higher Education Act of 1965 and made applicable to all post secondary institutions participating in federal student assistance programs. It had been renamed the Clery Act – especially, the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act – following a round of alterations had been made to this Act from 1998.
The Clery Act mandates that universities publish yearly reports by October 1 st detailing the last few decades of campus crime statistics. Additionally required are grounds for existing sexual assault policies, statements demonstrating to some simple degree of victims’ rights, a description of the campus law enforcement authority and contact information for students to report crimes.
Schools keep (and report on) statistics for crimes that occur directly on campus, on some off-campus facilities like fraternities and sororities (“Greek home”), remote classrooms, in school vehicles (buses, trams) and in certain public areas that border school property. The county sheriff, local police forces, campus police and security personnel all contribute statistics and statements to the Clery Act report, as do other school staff, employees or officials that have “significant responsibility for student and campus activities.” However, once they opt to establish such a system, they are then required to inform the campus community of its existence. As mental health professionals and ministers are exempt from the reporting obligations, a confidential reporting system could capture enough additional crime data to affect a school’s objective safety rating.
There are seven reporting categories for campus crime, several of which have additional sub-categories. The categories are outlined in the following manner:
Murder and non-negligent manslaughter
Forcible offenses including rape
There is also a lesser category (“episode”) that must be reported if there is a disciplinary referral to the campus judicial affairs office, or an arrest by a law enforcement agency. The incidents that require reporting include all types of liquor law violations, all drug law violations and weapons possession. Only the arrest is counted if a student is both arrested and given a school referral.
The Clery Act further requires that the data be mapped out, denoting the geographical areas as being on campus, campus student residences, non-campus buildings or “public land” such as parks, streets and sidewalks. In addition, the report must disclose if any reported crime was a “hate crime” under either state or federal law, or both.
Timeliness and responsibility
Unless a student is a victim, perpetrator or witness, the way most students even become remotely aware of the Clery Act is by the occasional “timely warnings” that schools publicize, as well as the separate, comprehensive crime log they make available for public inspection. The decision to issue a “timely warning” is a subjective one on the part of the school administration, and is normally considered only when a person or act is deemed to pose an imminent and/or ongoing “hazard to pupils and workers” The public log must be available for viewing by any interested party, not just persons affiliated with the particular school. The log must contain records of everything that is reported to campus police or security personnel, and is to be continuously updated in a manner specified by the Act.
Using the data
The crime information is not collected merely for the sake of amassing statistics. There is a very real responsibility on the part of postsecondary institutions to provide a safe and healthy environment for scholastic pursuits. Crime on campus, of all levels and kinds, is antithetical to the very notion of the university, a place of contemplation, problem-solving, creative beauty of every kind and the dynamism we associate with education, discovery and free inquiry.
Schools are dynamic, certainly. Constantly in a state of flux, altered by ongoing arrivals and departures and integrated to varying degrees with the surrounding communities, college campuses can be statistically safe yet still be the site of violent attacks, property crimes and even personal harassment. A victim is rarely comforted by finding out how low the rate is for the crime committed against her. She is, of course, 100% victimized.
And so the Clery Act reports are dutifully, if not routinely, filed at the end of September every year. Some people have made it their lives’ work to make certain that this data gets in the control of concerned families and parents. The non profit streak by the Clery family – SecurityOnCampus.org – creates abstracts, evaluations and reports accessible on a consistent basis, along with The Chronicle of Higher Education and the FBI both print extra campus offense statistics. Just a small research and reading are all that stands between one and also a crystal clear picture of campus offense in America. If you’re thinking about registering in college, or know somebody who’s, now’s a great time to get started.