As noted in numerous stories, a big problem Penn State as an institution faces today is failure to comply with the Clery Act – which aims to protect students from criminal behavior on campus (it says a lot about campuses that such a law is needed, but I digress).
The U.S. Department of Education’s website has a useful primer on the Clery Act here, which allows us to present you this quick Q&A (all information copied from the Department of Education):
What is the Clery Act?
The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act is a federal mandate requiring all institutions of higher education that participate in the federal student financial aid program to disclose information about crime on their campuses and in the surrounding communities. TheClery Act affects virtually all public and private institutes of higher learning and is enforced by the Department of Education. Campuses that fail to comply with the act can be penalized with large fines and may be suspended from participating in the federal financial aid program.
Why is it called the Clery Act?
The Clery Act, formerly known as the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act, was signed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990 and is named after 19-year-old Jeanne Clery, who was raped and murdered in her Lehigh University residence hall in 1986.
What does it require?
Every college and university must:
- Collect, classify, and count crime reports and crime statistics.
- Issue campus alerts, including issuing a timely warning for any Clery Act crime that represents an ongoing threat to the safety of students or employees; and issuing an emergency notification upon the confirmation of a significant emergency or dangerous situation involving an immediate threat to the health or safety of students or employees occurring on the campus.
- Publish an annual security report containing safety- and security-related policy statements and crime statistics and distribute it to all current students and employees. Schools also must inform prospective students and employees about the availability of the report.
- Submit crime statistics to ED each fall via Web-based data collection. The comprehensive user’s guide for the survey is located online at https://surveys.ope.ed.gov/security.
Is that it?
No. If the institution maintains a campus police or security department,the institution must keep a daily crime log of alleged criminal incidents that is open to public inspection.
Additionally, if the institution has any on-campus student housing facilities, it must:
- Disclose missing student notification procedures that pertain to students residing in those facilities.
- Disclose fire safety information related to those facilities, which includes keeping a fire log that is open to public inspection; publishing an annual safety report containing policy statements as well as fire statistics associated with each on-campus student housing facility; informing prospective students and employees about the availability of the annual safety report; and submitting fire statistics to ED each fall in the Web-based data collection.
So what did Penn State do wrong relating to the Clery Act?
Lots of things, according to the Freeh Report (see pages 115-6). That includes:
From its passage until 2007, Penn State delegated Clery Act compliance to a University Police Department’s crime prevention officer – who received no training on the act and was unaware that the university had an obligation to collect crime data from student organizations, coaches and others who have regular contact with students. In 2007, the crime prevention officer told his supervisor he needed additional personnel to assist with the Clery Act because “we could get hurt really bad here.” The Free Report said the supervisor responded by saying “we really don’t have the money.”
In 2007, Clery Act responsibilities were transferred to a department sergeant who had only minimal time to devote to those duties. Finally, also in 2007, university police department employees were trained on the Clery Act – and realized they had “serious deficiencies” in the way it gathered crime information on campus – including from other organizations, according to the Freeh Report.
That didn’t help, however, as nobody else on campus cared. Since making the report form available electronically in 2007, the police department received just one completed form from other groups on campus through 2011 (I’m guessing it wasn’t the athletic department).
In 2009, outside counsel provided the university information about Clery Act compliance. The police department created draft Clery Act policy that would have required written notification to all campus groups about their roles and responsibilities. It was still in draft form in November 2011 – something President Graham Spanier says he was unaware of.