The Jeanne Clery Act: making campuses safer through compliance, collaboration and training

A review of the literature on compliance with the Clery Act revealed that it has not been studied nationally. Three researchers in the field of higher education have conducted a majority of the research pertaining to the Clery Act. They are: Steven Janosik of Virginia Tech, Donald Gehring of Bowling Green State University and Dennis Gregory of Old Dominion University. In concert and separately, Janosik, Gehring and Gregory have conducted online and paper surveys directed to students, parents, campus law enforcement officials, judicial affairs officers and residence life administrators seeking data pertaining to compliance with the Clery Act. Data obtained from questionnaires sent by Janosik and Gehring to students indicated only 27% of student respondents were aware of the Clery Act and only 8% of student respondents used the Annual Security Report when making their college decision choice. In separate studies, Janosik, Gehring and Gregory concluded the Clery Act is ineffective in achieving its stated purpose and the compliance requirements are ambiguous and burdensome to comply with. Ultimately, Janosik, Gehring and Gregory opined that the energy and emphasis devoted to the reporting requirements of the Clery Act are misplaced and that students would be better served by administration’s focus on the development of services that make a difference instead of a statistical report. Studies of the nature and type of crime occurring on college campuses conducted by Bromley (1993) and Sloan (1993, 1994) indicate larceny and theft are the most prevalent crimes occurring on campus. However, in studies conducted by Sloan, Fisher and Cullen (1997) and Bennett and Weingand (1994) the failure of students to report crimes such as sexual assault and other serious crimes occurring on campus is prevalent and impedes an accurate depiction of crime on campus. Statement of the Problem This research studied the evolving impact of the landmark federal campus security policy and crime reporting law known as the Jeanne Clery Act on institutions of higher education. Enacted in 1990, following the murder of Jeanne Clery, in her dormitory room at Lehigh University, for the first time in United States history, the Jeanne Clery Act required institutions of higher education disclose campus security policies and annual campus crime statistics. Investigation conducted following Jeanne Clery’s murder revealed numerous incidents of violent crime had occurred on Lehigh’s campus, which was not disclosed to prospective or current students. The Clery family first lobbied for a campus crime reporting law in Pennsylvania and then joined with other campus crime victims to enact a federal law. At the behest of victim advocates, and in response to increasing incidents of violent crime on college campuses, Congress has amended the Jeanne Clery Act several times to clarify the law’s requirements and to increase levels of compliance. Despite the altruistic intent of the Clery Act and Congressional efforts to elucidate the means by which to achieve compliance, administrators at institutions of higher education are complying with the Clery Act in a variable manner. Administrators have defined their skepticism of the Clery Act’s ability to fulfill its own objectives. Sources of Data This study gathered data through qualitative personal interviews regarding personal perceptions of compliance from administrators at three institutions of higher education charged with the responsibility of compliance. This data was analyzed and compared with actual Annual Security Reports filed by the three institutions with the Department of Education and against Annual Security Reports disseminated by the institutions to the public. The Annual Security Reports were analyzed to determine if they fully complied with all requirements of the Clery Act and if they contained identical data. To address the concerns regarding compliance voiced by victim advocates, this researcher conducted a personal interview of S. Daniel Carter, Senior Vice President of Security On Campus, Inc., the 501 non-profit established by the Clery family. To fully understand the compliance requirements of the Clery Act, this researcher attended a compliance training seminar conducted by Security On Campus, Inc. Conclusions Reached The data obtained from the qualitative interviews permitted this researcher to more fully understand personal perceptions of the Clery Act that cannot be obtained through online, impersonal, forced choice questionnaires or surveys. The training seminar provided in depth training in Clery Act compliance requirements and offered the researcher the opportunity for assessment and feedback from Security On Campus, Inc. personnel. The results of the data collected indicated to this researcher that institutions of higher education are complying with the Clery Act at varying levels. Inter-departmental collaboration and training of personnel to fulfill the compliance requirements was not consistent at all three institutions. Greater efforts must be made by institutions of higher education to meet and exceed the requirements of the Clery Act.