Annual report assures campus stays safe

Campus security has always been a major concern for colleges around the nation, which is why St. Cloud State students received notice of the 2015 edition of the Annual Security and Fire Report in their email this month.

Many students scroll through campus emails giving it a quick glance, but there are reasons it deserves a second look. As the years go on, requirements for the report reflect issues and changes that this culture is facing.

Jennifer Furan Super, the associate director of the Public Safety Department says, “They’ve made significant changes to the report itself. This is the first year we had to track stalking, dating and domestic violence. They’ve added new requirements and new policy statements over the years.”

“They continue to keep changing the report to the culture and what the nation is looking for in that information,” she said. “Between the last five to 10 years they added hate crimes, which was not always part of the report either.”

The report itself stems from a piece of legislation called the Jeanne Clery Act. It’s a consumer protection law that passed in 1990 that requires all colleges and universities that receive federal funding to share their statistics on crime. This serves to inform the public and improve campus safety.

The act came about due to a tragedy that altered the culture of security on college campuses nationwide.

Jeanne Clery was 19 years old when she was brutally raped and murdered in 1986 in her dorm room at Lehigh University. Her parents, Connie and Howard Clery, founded the Clery Center for Security On Campus as a nonprofit, dedicated to safe campuses and communities throughout the nation.

Her parents were shocked to find a general lack of information for students and families about violence that occurs on campuses. Despite crimes being reported to campus authorities, administrators often failed to provide information and warnings about these incidents. Legally, there were no laws forcing them to be reported.

Furan Super explained that Jeanne’s parents did some researching and found out there were 28 very serious crimes committed on the Lehigh campus in the previous three years that were never reported.

“They started pushing legislation to say they would have never sent our daughter to this school if they had known about the crimes. It really came from the two parents who were very dedicated to the cause after their daughter had been murdered,” she said.

That is why they fought to bring the issue to Capitol Hill. There, Congress approved the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act, which later was named the Jeanne Clery act in her memory.

Now the Clery Act pushes schools to have emergency notification systems and holds schools accountable for the criminal behavior that occurs on their campus. In the report, campuses have to state what they are doing for prevention and education in all security aspects on campus.

Furan Super says SCSU reports on all the bystander events they are doing, as well as what safety education they are providing to students.

“To require colleges and universities to put that on paper and show what they are doing is important. It has value in that regard,” she said.

St. Cloud State has not been charged for not following the act, which is a good thing for the university because if any part of the legislation is violated, it results in a $35,000 fine.

Furan Super said even further punishments are taken against universities depending on the severity of the violation. She explained there are two colleges she expects to see have their federal financial aide access limited: Eastern Michigan and Pennsylvania State.

Eastern Michigan was fined due to the way they handled the murder of Laura Dickinson that occurred in their residential hall in December of 2006. The school was found in violation of the Clery Act for not reporting the incident to the community for a long period of time, attempting to cover up what happened.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania State endured the recent scandal of former football coach Jerry Sandusky who was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse on June 22, 2012. Other allegations followed, accusing fellow coach Joe Paterno and three university officials for covering up what happened.

Furan Super explained that the appeal process for these schools takes a long time, which is why these incidents that happened a number of years ago can still cause loss in funding.

Although the Annual Security and Fire Report is to be treated as a valuable resource, Furan Super says low-level crimes that happen on college campuses are not all reported in the file.

“Theft is probably the most prevalent crime on a college campus, but we aren’t required to report that. So yes, some numbers can look great, but when you look at the low level crimes that occur on a college campus, that’s where you would get a truer picture, but those crimes aren’t federally required to be in the report.”

As far as major crimes in the 2014 school year, SCSU has mostly zeros in all categories. Out of the 18 categories of offenses, SCSU reported 138 liquor law arrests, two motor vehicle thefts, six drug law arrests, 27 burglary incidents, 249 liquor law violations, 159 drug law violations, five offenses in domestic violence and six incidents of stalking.

Fall enrollment at SCSU in fall of 2014 was 15,416 students, which puts the numbers into perspective.

Furan Super explained that the annual report is a lot of work, especially when they add new categories to it, but overall, it is for a good cause.

“It takes a lot of people. It’s a lot of work, and every time they add to it, which adds more work and time and commitment. But, I think that it’s good to hold institutions accountable,” Furan Super said.

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