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House Demands Enforcement

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

House Demands Enforcement

Article excerpt

CONGRESS HAS HAS PUT the Department of Education on notice that it had better start enforcing the law requiring universities to disclose statistics on campus crime.

To remedy the problem of college and university officials who either don't release information in a timely or who don't report statistics accurately, the House of Representatives passed a resolution urging the Department of Education to "play a more active role in monitoring and enforcing compliance" with the Campus Awareness and Security Act of 1990.

During a Capitol Hill press conference, members of Congress indicated they would introduce legislation next year to open campus police records.

The House resolution directs the Department of Education to "get its act together" when it comes to enforcing campus security and the Campus Security Act, explained Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Post-secondary Education Sub-committee.

"It is very disheartening to all of us . . . when we hear about instances of incomplete and inaccurate reports with respect to the reporting of crime statistics, and then we hear that the Department of Education doesn't consider the matter a priority," he said.

Rep. Bill Goodling (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee and sponsor of the resolution, said that if the resolution doesn't spur education officials to enforce the law, "of course, we will pass some different legislation that will make a lot of college officials unhappy."

Legislation to open campus security and police logs was introduced last year by Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.). Although the Open Campus Police Logs Act, H.R. 2416, failed to reach the floor, Duncan said he would address the issue again next year.

"There is a major problem with crime on many of our nation's largest colleges and universities, but very few people -- not enough people -- are aware of it," Duncan commented. "We need to shine a light on that problem."

David A. Longanecker, assistant secretary for post secondary education, said the Department of Education has "no problem with" the resolution, whose language "is consistent with the priority we've placed on this."

While the department is "finding institutions that are out of compliance," Longanecker said that if violations appear "unintentional, not terribly flagrant, we're working with them to bring them into compliance."

Flagrant violations, he warned, are greeted with "a more punitive approach," he added during a telephone interview with E&P.

"Our sense was that initially, when this law was passed, the colleges and universities were pretty negative," he said. "Over the past few years, we've seen a sea of change.

"At first, they thought it was an unreasonable federal intrusion. Now, they see it as a legitimate public interest," he said. Now campus officials are "more interested in learning how to comply."

He said officials found at least 31 examples of noncompliance, most not serious.

The case of Moorhead State "suggests pretty substantial noncompliance," and an exception, Longanecker said. A former student complained, and the school became the first flagged by federal officials for noncompliance. As this story was prepared, the university was into a 30-day period in which to reply to the findings.

If the department finds flagrant violation, it will make a judgment on penalties. In most cases, education officials work with universities to bring them into compliance," Longanecker said.

Penalties can range from fines to elimination from federal student aid programs, though Longanecker said officials are hesitant to cut aid because it hurts students.

Reviews of the statistics are conducted during the department's regular campus oversight activities, making sure there is a report, that it covers all aspects of the law and that it is available to the community. …

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