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Campus Crime Act Makes it Tougher For Schools to Withhold Crime Stats

By Susan Buchman
Associate news Editor

The way in which colleges and universities nationwide deal with campus crime statistics and freedom of information may change significantly under a new federal education law.

On Oct. 7, President Clinton signed the Higher Education Amendment Act of 1998. Although the act deals mostly with student financial aid, the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act is an amendment to the main act which concerns security policy for colleges and universities.

The law affects the reporting of campus crime statistics, requires an open campus police log, gives schools more freedom over the release of student disciplinary records, and aims to help curb violence against women and binge drinking.

Statistical reporting revamped

The new law will primarily affect how schools compile and categorize their crime statistics.

"Now [the schools] have to provide a type of classification. It's giving the person a total sense of the environment that they're in and that's important. People don't just go from their dorm to class," said Myra Codner, Administrative Assistant at Security On Campus Inc., a non-profit organization geared to the prevention of college and university campus violence and other crimes.

Statistics on all crime will be divided into four categories: on campus, non-campus, public property, and residential facilities for students.

Fraternities, sororities, and all other living groups associated with the school are considered as on-campus. Property owned by a school but managed by a third party, such as food courts, and public property adjacent to school property, such as streets and sidewalks running through and near the campus, are defined as non-campus.

Although the Campus Police already reports crimes occurring on public property adjacent to campus in its annual report, it will now have to report those statistics in the federal law compliance document, according to Chief of Campus Police Anne P. Glavin.

Manslaughter and arson are added to the list of annually required statistical disclosures. Hate crimes are required to be divided into "categor[ies] of prejudice."

The CPs already report hate crimes, but now "we must show the community the breakdown [of the crimes] as far as religious, gender, whatever the case may be," Glavin said.

Schools will also be required to maintain a public police log of all crimes. Logs of campus crime must be made available to the public within two days of the initial report and must include the date, time, location, and nature of the crime.

"We were doing that before it was even state law," Glavin said. Massachusetts law has required open campus police logs for at least a decade.

Student records more accessible

Survivors of nonforcible sex offenses will be included in the group of victims which are allowed to be informed of the outcome of student disciplinary hearings. The Family Education Right to Privacy Act, which governs the access to educational records, now permits the disclosure of the results of disciplinary hearings involving violent crime or nonforcible sex-offenses.

However, the only name that can be released is the name of the accused and the law states that the school is under no obligation to release this information.

According to Margaret R. Bates, dean for student life, the Institute probably will not alter its current policy, which keeps all disciplinary records confidential.

"We certainly won't [make any changes to the policy] without a full a full review of the implications," Bates said.

Funds available for schools

The act also allocated funds to be used to reduce violence against women and binge drinking. The Department of Justice will distribute $10 million during the 1999 fiscal year for combatting violence against women. An additional $1 million is earmarked for a study on how colleges respond to complaints of sexual assault. Campaigns against binge drinking will receive $5 million in federal funds.

Bates said that, since MIT already has programs dealing with both issues, "we hope that we would be in a strong position to apply for funds."

Compliance with the act is required of all schools whose students receive federal student aid. The Department of Education is responsible for reporting all schools who fail to comply to Congress. The law took effect on the day of its signing.

"Unfortunately, the Department [of Education] has yet to demonstrate any inclination to get tough on schools that hide campus crime. I hope that this Congressional encouragement will provide an opportunity for the Department [of Education ] to demonstrate that it is no longer the lap dog of those college administrators more concerned about their school's image than the safety of their students," said Mark Goodman, executive director of the Student Press Law Center.

Jeanne Clery, for whom the act is named, was brutally raped, beaten, and murdered by another student that she didn't know in her dormitory room at Lehigh University in the early morning hours of April 5, 1986.

CP logs have had problems

Last spring, The Tech discovered omissions in the CP crime summaries for the past five years. Reports of crimes in off-campus fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups, including two rapes, were missing from the reports, but they were required to be included by existing federal law. The discrepancy was discovered when The Tech requested statistics on the FSILGs directly from the Boston Police Department.

As a result, the CPs pledged to publish semi-annual reports of crime in off-campus FSILGs. They also worked with Boston Police to gain better statistics as required by law.