Higher education groups oppose access legislation





WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bill that could open campus disciplinary proceedings and make campus crime reporting more accessible, is facing opposition from some higher education lobbying groups.

The Accuracy in Campus Crime Reporting Act (ACCRA), H.R. 715, sponsored by Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.), would open campus police logs and campus disciplinary proceedings and prevent universities from hiding behind the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), commonly known as the Buckley Amendment, to withhold campus crime reports and statistics.

Higher education lobbying organizations, including the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and the Association for Student Judicial Affairs, have taken a stance against the legislation, saying it is a violation of students’ privacy.

Ben Clery, president of Security on Campus, which helped draft the bill along with the Society of Professional Journalists, said the bill will not violate students’ privacy. It is meant to inform students and faculty on the safety of their campuses.

If passed, the act will only require the release of information on incidents that could be construed as criminal, said Daniel Carter, regional vice president of Security on Campus.

Clery said criminal acts should be treated as such, regardless of where they occur.

“They are acting as though a student criminal is a different criminal with a special right to privacy,” Clery said. “A rape is a rape whether it is on campus or not.”

Michelle Goldsfarb, circuit representative for the Association for Student Judicial Affairs and chief disciplinary officer for the University of Pennsylvania, said she has three main problems with the bill.

She said she thinks the bill would actually undermine accurate reporting of crime, because more campus officials would be responsible for crime reporting.

She also said she thinks opening student disciplinary hearings and records would violate the confidentially of students and that these records are protected under FERPA.

Clery issued a letter in October to supporters of the proposed legislation encouraging them to voice their support to their Congressional representatives. He warned that unless student journalists report violations of the Campus Security Act and demonstrate support for the bill, the battle for open campus disciplinary hearings and police logs will be lost.

“Closed campus judicial hearings and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act have become more of a cancer on an informed and vigilant campus community, than a reasonable ‘privacy protection’ for student records,” he stated in the letter. “College and university campuses are not sovereign powers with the authority to withhold important safety information.”

A House subcommittee conducted a hearing on the bill in July. By October the legislation had 63 co-sponsors in the house.

Supporters of the bill are hoping to find a sponsor to introduce the legislation into the Senate in 1998.


reports, Winter 1997-98