Amendments to Clery Act require universities to immediately warn campus of emergencies

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President Bush signed a higher education law Thursday making several amendments to the Clery Act that will require universities to "immediately notify" students, faculty and staff about emergencies on campus.

Advocacy groups including Security on Campus escalated their push for Clery Act reforms after 32 students and employees were killed at Virginia Tech in April 2007.

Pennsylvania-based Security on Campus was founded in 1987 by Jeanne Clery's parents after her rape and murder in her residence hall. The organization helped secure the passage of the Jeanne Clery Act in 1990, which requires universities to open campus crime information, supplementing the disclosure requirements that already exist under state laws.

Thursday's changes make colleges immediately alert the campus community of a "significant emergency or dangerous situation involving an immediate threat to the health or safety of students or staff occurring on campus."

The amendments also require universities to test their emergency response and evacuation procedures once a year. The Education Department will be required to report annually to Congress on compliance with the Clery Act.

For student reporters covering campus crime, the most significant change broadens the requirement for colleges to report hate crime statistics. Previously under the Clery Act, colleges were required to report only a list of specified serious crimes, but hate crimes often include less serious actions like theft, assault, intimidation and vandalism, said S. Daniel Carter, senior vice president of Security on Campus. Under the new provisions, these crimes will be reported, too.

Carter said these amendments give the students and faculty the ability to protect themselves with information, which he calls the "hallmark of the Clery Act."

Another provision will protect "whistleblowers" from retaliation. University employees or crime victims will have better protection to report violations of the Clery Act.

With the new hate crime reporting requirements and the whistleblower provisions, student reporters should find a greater flow of information. More crime statistics will be available and sources will have more protection to be forthcoming, Carter said.

The Education Department must now develop and issue regulations to detail how institutions can comply with the changes, and Carter said that should happen some time next year.

news, Washington D.C.

More Information

Congress might mandate more campus crime data The Report, 5/15/2008