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An About Face on Off-Campus Crime

We commend Chief of Campus Police Anne P. Glavin for openly admitting that the annual MIT crime report failed to include serious crimes committed in fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups for the past five years. We applaud her, too, for taking swift action to make sure that no such problems occur in the future. However, the omissions still raise a serious issue: The Campus Police violated the federal Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990. The omissions also throw into doubt the CPs dedication to complete, accurate crime reporting.

At a press conference in February, Glavin said that the CPs were in full compliance with federal law. She said that any errors had been made by members of the student press. It is troublesome to note Glavin's earlier willingness to assign blame. It appears clear, in fact, that the officers responsible for obtaining and compiling the statistics were not aware of the laws; the annual report wrongly stated that they were not required to report any events that occurred outside their narrow definition of the MIT campus, even after passage of the legislation in 1990.

In February, Glavin stated that the CPs requested the crime information for FSILGs from the Boston and Cambridge Police Departments on a weekly basis. Now, she has revealed that the Boston authorities consistently sent them information saying that no serious crimes had occurred in any FSILGs during the period. This is an egregious breech of trust between law enforcement agencies and displays, at best, a serious lack of organization at the Boston Police district offices.

But it is important to note, however, that the CPs perpetuated this misinformation. The CPs are responsible for the accuracy of their statistics. Someone should have noticed that within the Boston FSILGs, no serious crimes were reported for over a period of more than seven years while many crimes occurred on campus. The disparity should have set off alarm bells. In addition, there were several serious crimes which occurred during this period, including two forcible sexual assaults in the last two years. The CPs should have been aware of a number of these events specifically, and should have noticed that they were not cited in the reports.

The CPs may not be the only ones withholding crime reports. Most colleges keep all disciplinary actions secret, even when a student is punished for a criminal activity. The Dean's Office here is no exception. They invoke the Buckley Amendment, which protects "educational records." Recently, however, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered the release of such records to a college newspaper, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal. We feel that these records should be open to the public at all schools. In these criminal cases the college is acting instead of the government; therefore, these records should be as accessible as normal criminal proceeding records.

In all, however, we applaud the release of new information by the MIT Campus Police. It is a step in the right direction, and we hope that such forthrightness will spread to other areas of the Institute.