Staff from The University of Texas-Pan American and other area higher education institutions had an opportunity to learn more about compliance with federal regulations regarding the monitoring and disclosure of crime statistics on campus during a training session conducted June 29 at UTPA.
The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act - called the Clery Act - requires all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to keep and disclose information about crime on and near their respective campuses. Compliance is monitored by the United States Department of Education, which can impose civil penalties, up to $27,500 per violation, against institutions for each infraction and can suspend their participation in federal student financial aid programs.
"There are several possible consequences with not complying with the law. Aside from the penalties, the most significant consequence is that you lose the faith of your campus community, "said Steven Healy, managing partner of Margolis, Healy & Associates, who led the daylong session. Healy is former chief of police at Princeton University and past president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.
The act is named in memory of 19-year-old freshman Jeanne Ann Clery, who was raped and murdered in April 1986 while asleep in her residence hall room at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. Her parents discovered that students there hadn't been made aware of 38 violent crimes on the campus in the three years before her murder. They and other supporters persuaded Congress to enact the law in 1990 requiring campus crime statistics disclosure.
"Her family believed that if the university had provided more accurate information about the nature of safety and security on campus, they may not have chosen to send their daughter there or she would have taken additional precautions to protect herself," Healy said.
The law requires institutions to publish an annual report disclosing campus security policies and three years worth of selected crime statistics. Those institutions with a police or security department must maintain a public crime log. Institutions must also make timely warnings to the campus community about crimes that pose an ongoing threat to students and employees.
Healy said in 2008 changes were made to the law directly related to the tragedy at Virginia Tech where 32 students and employees were killed. Colleges are now required to immediately notify students and staff upon confirmation of a significant emergency on campus, such as an active shooter situation. The new provisions also call for colleges to test and publicize their emergency response and evacuation procedures once a year and expand reporting of hate crime statistics. Institutions were given until July 1, 2010 to comply with the new regulations.
Healy said an updated handbook to help institutions comply with the regulations will be published and made available this year. The latest regulations also included a federal matching grants program to fund campus emergency response and notification improvements.
UTPA Police Chief Roger Stearns, who organized the training, said Clery Act compliance is critical to the University in order to avoid fines and more importantly, maintain the trust and confidence of the community. He said the annual security report and compliance with the act requires collaboration and partnerships within the campus community and a shared understanding of its requirements.
"I wanted training to come from leading experts in Clery Act compliance. The legislation is complex and subject to different interpretations. I like the idea of going out and seeing what interpretations the national experts have and identifying with the best practices," Stearns said. "With this training, we will all be on the same page."
Attendee Tanzeer Ahmed, UTPA human resources training coordinator, found the concepts taught in the training useful.
"The messages were informative and have immediate practical applicability. The instructors were very engaging and I learned a lot of things, a few of which we can surely implement at HR," she said.
The annual safety and security report at UTPA is available at www.utpa.edu/police. The university will host another training session by Margolis, Healy & Associates on Campus Threat Assessment on July 28. To register or obtain additional information, call Ester Martinez, UTPA Police Department, at 956/381-2727 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.