What is the Clery Act
By Claire Law, MS
Independent Educational Consultant
As an NCAG member who recently attended the Student Financial Aid conference in Atlanta, (Dec 2-5, 2014), I wanted to share information that was part of Session #32, Complying with the Clery Act: Practical Advice for Financial Aid Professionals. Formerly called the "Campus Security Act" it was renamed after the death of Jeanne Clery, a young college student (http://clerycenter.org/summary-jeanne-clery-act) The Federal Department of Education is the responsible agency for monitoring colleges' compliance with this reporting.
As NCAG members, we all work toward safeguarding students' and families' best interest, in one form or another, whether through financial aid advising alone or academic guidance or a combo of both. Thus we may be able to better prepare our students for college if we address or at least mention issues that unfortunately persist on campus.
Statistics show that the highest rate of assaults occurs during the fall, when first-year students arrive. Why? Because new students are excited to be on campus, finally independent of their parents, seek to fully experience their new life as "college students". Most of all, they are trying to make friends. Away from home and susceptible to peer pressures, students may find themselves in unfamiliar situations. Most new students attend the orientation session in their residence hall. These usually cover the how to live in a dorm, where to find the dining hall and laundry room, library hours, and other logistics. Hopefully, they also talk about how to be safe while making new friends, how to walk with a buddy and not alone after dark, and how to actually use the "blue light" stations throughout campus, anytime they feel unsafe.
At the recent Student Financial Aid convention in Atlanta the representative from the Department of Education, James Moore, from the Clery Act Compliance Team, explained that under Clery, colleges must comply with the reporting requirements and actively talk about crime awareness and drug-alcohol abuse prevention measures on campus.
Campus police must keep records of every distress call that comes in. However, according to the FSA presenter, Jim Moore, these reports are not often made visible to the very students who inhabit the campus, and those reports fall short of meeting The Clery Act compliance requirements. In fact, colleges must publish an annual report that encapsulates three years of campus crime statistics. These must be posted in a place that is visible to students, both on campus bulletin boards and on the website. The same goes for posting information about what to do in case of emergencies. In fact on my college tours, I have noticed more posters that show approved evacuation routes from each building, along with what to do in case of an attack involving fire arms or explosion or a natural disaster. However, if the Clery Act was a hard one to follow, now there are new reporting standards that require even a higher level of compliance. It's called the VAWA Act.
What is VAWA?
VAWA stands for "Violence Against Women Re-authorization Act of 2014". It was enacted on March 3, 2013 and the final rule was issued on October 20th, 2014. It requires expanded reporting for incidents of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, physical and cyber-stalking and any and all hate crimes.
VAWA spells out new definitions of what constitutes incidents and crimes that need to be reported. Basically, colleges must report all of them, whether or not a victim reports the crime right away or days or years after the fact. These crime reports must be brought to the attention of campus security, campus authority or local law enforcement personnel.
The presenter Mr. Moore pointed out that he received many compliance reports from colleges that did not jive with their internal campus reports. He drew laughter when he added "these reports don't balance out even though financial aid administrators are masters of re-conciliation". For example, he discovered that in some states, campus police do not report an arson if it's not reportable to the state and the state police do not classify it. The point was made that the Department of Education wants to keep track of all these incidents, even if they are reportable only locally.
Another new reporting requirement under VAWA means that colleges are responsible for reporting accidents and violations that may take place in such locations as the coffee shop owned by a national chain restaurant or bookstore that has an outlet on campus. "It's not enough to say: oh well, that crime took place at such and such a retail place". If the place is frequented by students and supports institutional purposes, it is the responsibility of the college to keep track of all incidents and report them to the federal department of education.
In addition, the geographical area of reporting has expanded. The official campus perimeter is no longer the only area to be covered. Incidents must be reported even if they took place in the restaurants, outlets, apartments and Greek houses off campus, because they are there primarily for the use of students.
Some financial aid administrators voiced the fear that federal funding would be withdrawn if the college compliance officer made mistakes. Others wondered if they would be breaking FERPA confidentiality rules. The answer was that no federal funding would be withdrawn from colleges as a result of reporting all crimes and incidents, and this reporting would not be a breach of FERPA. However, in order to get to the bottom of what is really happening on campuses and collect accurate data, lax and incorrect reporting would result in penalties.
Mr. Moore indicated that college students are already galvanizing around these issues and formed groups like www.takebackthenight.org and http://livethegreendot.com/ . Their mission is to train students on how to live a safer life on campus. Download the Department's presentation and audio here:http://fsaconferences.ed.gov/2014sessions.html and look for power point presentation # 32.
Claire Law, MS
Independent Educational Consultant
College Advisors of Connecticut
SC Office: (843) 278-1271
RI Office: (401) 885-8611
Cell: (401) 595-8353
Chair of the NCAG Technical Committee
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