Crime on Campus: Can Clery Act Data from Universities and Colleges Be Trusted?

By Guffey, James E. | ASBBS E - Journal, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

Crime on Campus: Can Clery Act Data from Universities and Colleges Be Trusted?


Guffey, James E., ASBBS E - Journal


ABSTRACT

This study is based on a survey from The Center for Public Integrity that found 49 out of 58 crisis-services programs and clinics recorded higher reports of sexual offenses than were reported in the school's Clery statistics from 2002-2006. My study is a follow-up for the period 2008-2010 for 26 randomly selected universities to determine if the Clery data should still be questioned. Data from the Clery statistics are compared with UCR data from the neighboring cities and towns to estimate whether there is justification to question the accuracy of the Clery Act Data.

INTRODUCTION

In 1974, legislation was introduced to give students the right to access their education records. This law, known as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) was left untouched until 1990. In 1990, the law was amended to allow higher education institutions to distribute information to current and perspective students regarding campus crime statistics. The 1990 FERPA amendment was a small piece of much larger legislation known as the Student Right to Know, Crime Awareness, and Campus Security Act (Public Law 101-542) (Harshman, et al, 2008).

The Student Right to Know, Crime Awareness, and Campus Security Act applies to all public and private higher education institutions on the basis of their participation in federal student aid programs. This legislation resulted from a horrendous crime on the campus of Lehigh University in 1990. Jeanne Clery, a young co-ed living in student housing on campus, was assaulted, raped, and murdered in her dormitory room. There was evidence that Lehigh University had covered-up previous serious crimes committed on the campus. Since their daughter's death, the Clery's have devoted their lives to forcing colleges and universities to be more forthcoming about campus crime. Their efforts resulted in what is known today as the Clery Act, the name by which this paper will refer to henceforth. The Act has three major purposes: (a) impose a standard method by which colleges and universities report campus crime, (b) mandate the sharing of this information so that parents, students, employees, and applicant groups can make better decisions, and (c) reduce criminal activity on college and university campuses (Janosik& Gregory, 2002).

The Clery Act requires 7,500 colleges and universities to disclose statistics about crime on or near their campuses in annual security reports. An important feature of the Act is the requirement that schools poll a wide range of campus security authorities when gathering data. This requirement includes a broad array of campus programs, departments, and centers such as student health centers, women's centers, and even counseling centers. The polling and inquiry also applies to officials who supervise students-deans, coaches, housing directors, and judicial affairs officials. Broad interpretation of the law implies that any center or program set up by an educational institution to respond to crime victims and to serve their needs should be designated a campus crime authority and require reporting under the Clery Act (Lombard and Jones, 2012).

The intent of the Clery Act is to make colleges and universities report crime that occurs on or near the campus in a yearly report according to the Uniform Crime Reports Part 1 offenses at a minimum. This report is provided to prospective students both in admissions brochures as well as the university's or college's website. Prospective students and their parents are able to use this information in their decision-making as to which school their son or daughter should attend.

PROBLEM STATEMENT

The Clery Act has been well-received by all of the reporting universities. However, many untoward issues have arisen since the passage of the Clery Act. For example, Gehring and Callaway (1997) concluded that college administrators were still unsure of the Act's reporting requirements and that many were not including the right material in admission packets. …

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