Unfortunately, sexual crimes aren’t limited to what we see in the news. They occur in nearly every sector of society and are especially prevalent on college campuses.
In a 2015 survey of students at 27 universities, more than 23% of female undergraduate students said they had experienced rape or sexual assault through physical force.
As a campus safety professional, it’s your role to ensure students and faculty can live and learn in a safe environment. It’s vital to identify the most effective ways to prevent sexual crimes while advocating for victims.
Unfortunately, changing legislation can be challenging to keep up with, complicating your campus safety efforts.
Last September, the Department of Education revoked the Obama administration’s guidelines on campus sexual assault, sparking public conversation on how colleges have been and should be dealing with sexual violence on campus.
As public officials are at odds about reducing sexual crimes, your role in campus safety is even more important.
What’s the best path forward?
Security consultant S. Daniel Carter advises campuses to look to the Clery Act, which he says provides details on “prevention, assistance for survivors of sexual violence, and most pertinent to the current discussion procedures for institutional conduct proceedings.”
He says that while other legislation is more fluid, regulations like the Clery Act are less likely to be altered by the Department of Education. This makes Clery Act compliance a key method for crime prevention on campus.
Simply put, the Clery Act is a federal law that aims to provide transparency around campus crime policy and statistics.
By making crime information and reports public and accessible, campus safety officials can make students aware of the risks they face on and near campus.
The Clery Act is named after Jeanne Clery, a college student who was raped in her dorm by another student in 1986.
In the aftermath of her case, Clery’s parents successfully lobbied for more significant measures of security on college campuses. The federal government created the Campus Safety Act of 1990 in response, which eventually evolved into the Clery Act as we know it.
The Act has been amended numerous times since it was created.
The Clery Act requires all colleges and universities receiving federal funding to report crimes that occur on and near campus.
While sexual crimes are a part of this requirement, the Act also requires reporting on all forms of assault, violence, and hate crimes.
The largest Clery Act reporting requirement involves an annual report.
Every year by October 1, institutions must disseminate a public annual security report (ASR) to all employees and students. Campuses must also keep a public crime log and disclose all campus crime statistics.
When there is a known safety risk, the Act requires campuses to send timely warnings to the school community.
Also, the Clery Act contains a bill of rights for sexual assault victims. This requires schools to disclose educational resources, disciplinary protocol, and victim’s rights regarding sexual crime complaints.
Consequences of non-compliance
With numerous, dynamic requirements, it can be easy to let Clery Act reporting details slip through the cracks. But missing the mark on Clery Act Compliance is costly.
In addition to putting campus safety at risk, not complying with the Clery Act can result in major fines for your institution.
As of June 2017, fines have nearly doubled from their original $25,000 amount at $54,789 per violation. With multiple violations, this number can multiply rapidly.
For example, during the Jerry Sandusky case, the Department of Education fined Penn State $2.4 million.
What the Clery Act Means for You
To avoid these costly consequences will take vigilance and time on your end.
Since the government frequently amends the Clery Act, you will likely have to update your policies and retrain your officers regularly. Still, it’s crucial to make Clery Act compliance a priority on your campus.
By taking responsibility for reporting campus crimes, you can play a part in preventing them. This makes your campus a safer place to be for everyone, which is your end goal.
As you know, compliance with federal, state, and local laws is a major undertaking. That’s why collaboration across departments throughout the reporting process is so crucial.
Working as a team, you can ensure the most detailed, compliant Clery Act reporting possible.
Plan ahead for security alerts
To start, think about your process for communicating crimes on campus in a timely way. To make sure you alert the campus according to Clery Act guidelines, form an emergency communications team.
Appointing individuals in advance to send crime notifications means your campus safety police will get to focus on actually responding to the crimes.
Along these lines, it might be helpful to have campus leaders approve your warning messages and alerts ahead of time.
This could save officers time by reducing work when crimes are happening on campus.
Determine how you'll collect information across departments
Collaboration is also important when it comes to reporting on-campus crimes. Since you’ll need to provide detailed reports on crimes of all kinds, you may need to collaborate with leaders in other departments.
This could include student health or housing, athletics, faculty, and human resources.
Maintaining positive relationships and planning ahead will help you collect the information you need in a timely way.
Review your reports regularly
Keep in mind that all of this data can be a large undertaking if you wait until annual reports to ensure it’s compliant.
Rather than waiting for your annual review, consider making sure you have all the details you need – and that it’s all compliant – on a monthly or even weekly basis.
Create a Clery Act handbook
Finally, to capture all of these best practices, consider developing a Clery Act handbook within your general policies and procedures. Include all federal reporting guidelines, and make sure to update them as amendments occur.
It might also be helpful to involve others from within and outside of your institution to ensure you’re not letting any details slip through the cracks. This is where policy management comes in.