On April 5, 1986, a young woman named Jeanne Clery was brutally attacked, raped, and murdered in her university dormitory. Clery’s parents lobbied for several years until The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, or the “Clery Act,” became law in 1990.
According to the Clery Center, “The Clery Act requires colleges and universities who receive federal funding to disseminate a public annual security report (ASR) to employees and students every October 1st. This ASR must include statistics of campus crime for the preceding three calendar years, plus details about efforts taken to improve campus safety. ASRs must also include policy statements regarding (but not limited to) crime reporting, campus facility security and access, law enforcement authority, incidence of alcohol and drug use, and the prevention of/response to sexual assault, domestic or dating violence, and stalking.”
Compliance is monitored by the Department of Education and can impose fines up to $35,000 per violation, as well as suspend institutions from participating in federal financial aid programs.
The ASR must also include any crime within the geographic area of the school, as well as non-campus buildings that are used for educational purposes or for student organizations. Those crimes also include murder, robbery, hate crimes, and any arrests. The Clery Act requires campuses to assess and disseminate timely emergency warnings that could affect students, and maintain a daily crime log that is viewable by the public during business hours. The Clery Center states that “victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking have specific rights, options, and resources guaranteed to them by the Clery Act.” Institutions must provide students with preventative education that also includes bystander intervention and risk reduction. They must provide victims with a written explanation of their rights, which include the option to change housing, transportation, or academic course assignments, as well as access to legal and counseling services. And, lastly, victims of these crimes have a right to prompt, fair, and impartial disciplinary hearings.
Every student deserves safe learning environment. Educational institutions have an enormous responsibility of providing a safe environment, physically and emotionally, for all of their students and employees. The Jeanne Clery Act is a step toward providing and enforcing accountability and transparency for current and prospective students working to build a future for themselves. The AAUW stated that, “Newly reported data required by the Clery Act Reporting indicated that the annual statistics collected by colleges and universities still do not tell the full story of sexual violence on campus. Many are familiar with the disturbing statistic that one in five women is sexually assaulted during college, but less well known is that more than one in five college women experiences physical abuse, sexual abuse, or threats of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner.” When schools aren’t held accountable for documenting, educating, and preventing violence against students, it precludes a safe learning environment.
In 2014, 91% of colleges reported zero incidences of rape. This is an inaccurate representation of actual rape cases on these college campus, and shows that students aren’t reporting the incidents for various reasons, ranging from discomfort with reporting, to a lack of knowledge about how to report it, and fear of retaliation or just disbelief in their experience. Inaccurate reporting of crimes provides a false sense of security and undermines trust between schools, students, and campus safety as a whole.
If report after report shows inaccurate crime rates, it allows for a larger narrative that the people actually reporting crimes are falsely accusing someone. They can and do say, “Crimes like that don’t happen here, just look at our statistics.” What people fail to realize is that accurate reporting will actually aid in the decrease of these crimes. If there is reporting and repercussions for a crime, others might think before doing something because they know that the act will be taken seriously. Additionally, accurate reporting of crimes allows for an appropriate amount of care and security to ensure the most up-to-date policies and procedures are in place to prevent or protect potential victims.
Creating a successful prevention plan for campus safety requires knowledge and accurate reporting. The Jeanne Clery Act Reporting attempts to provide the information and transparency needed to understand the spectrum of issues that campuses are facing. The AAUW suggests that schools offer victimization and climate surveys to students to gain a better understanding what crimes are occurring, why they aren’t being reported, and to understand the issues facing the campus as a whole that may be undermining reporting.
Accurate reporting of key student safety information is essential for transparency and trust in our institutions, and it is crucial for providing safety for current and future students. For safety to be taken seriously, those reporting for the Clery Act need to encourage safe environments for students to come forward, accuracy in reporting, and implementing safety measures that protect and inform students that are victims of crimes.