Education bill steps up campus crime reporting

GW’s methods for reporting campus crimes surpass the standards laid out in higher education legislation passed on Capitol Hill last week, University Police Director Dolores Stafford said.

Both houses of Congress approved the Higher Education Reauthorization Act, calling for expanded reporting of campus crime information and increased punishment for students caught selling or possessing drugs. The legislation also creates programs to prevent violence against women on campus and deter student drug and alcohol abuse.

Under the legislation, students caught in possession of or selling drugs could lose their federal financial aid.

President Clinton has pledged his support of the bill and has 10 days from Friday, when Congress sent the legislation to him, to sign the act into law.

On their first offense, students who are found in possession of drugs could lose a year of federal aid and a student caught selling drugs can lose two years of aid, said S. Daniel Carter, vice president of Security On Campus Inc., a national nonprofit victims’ services organization. Aid can be suspended indefinitely after the second drug sale offense and the third possession offense.

Carter said the U.S. Department of Education probably will be responsible for monitoring eligibility for federal financial aid. Students will be required to answer questions honestly about drugs under penalty of perjury, he said.

Carter noted the importance of the provisions that call for enhanced campus crime reporting.

“An informed student body has got to be a significant component of any campus security effort,” he said.

GW already complies with several reporting provisions the bill lays out, Stafford said. Stafford, who is a member of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, has been involved in the development of the bill’s provisions since its inception about two years ago.

In her role as U.S. Government Relations Committee chair for IACLEA, Stafford testified twice in the past year at hearings before the U.S. House and Senate in support of the bill.

“We go above and beyond what has been required by law,” Stafford said. “There are many things that we already do.”

Campuses will be required to disclose disciplinary referrals for alcohol, drug and weapons violations, in addition to arrests. GW, which already discloses those statistics in UPD’s annual Pride in Protection and Service pamphlet, reported no arrests in those categories in 1997.

The pamphlet reported no arrests on campus, although it lists 138 alcohol violations, 41 drug violations and five weapons violations that were referred to the office of Student Judicial Services in 1997.

The new law also expands the definition of campus perimeters to require universities to disclose crimes that occur on public streets and sidewalks on campus.

But GW already defines its campus as the area from F Street to Pennsylvania Avenue between 19th and 24th streets and reports crimes that occur within those boundaries, Stafford said.

The new law will require the DOE to publicly disclose crime statistics from every campus in the country. GW already makes its crime log public, Stafford said.

The Mount Vernon campus did not disclose campus crime statistics prior to its affiliation with GW. Carter said Security On Campus Inc. pointed that out to the school’s administration last spring when Mount Vernon students contacted the organization after a pair of residence hall master keys were stolen.

Stafford said UPD took over responsibility for security at the Mount Vernon campus in July. UPD now publishes a separate Pride in Protection and Service pamphlet for the Mount Vernon campus.

“We’ve increased all of the standards so that they are as similar as can be (to GW) and consistent (with GW standards),” Stafford said.

The legislation was originally sponsored by Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.), Rep. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).

The bill’s campus security provisions are named in memory of Jeanne Clery, who was murdered at Lehigh University in 1986. Her parents, Howard and Connie Clery, sued Lehigh after they discovered 38 violent crimes had not been reported to students.

“The Clerys said they didn’t want that to happen to anyone else,” Carter said. “They wanted students to be able to make informed decisions about taking precautions.”

The Clerys helped implement the first campus security laws 10 years ago. They also founded Security On Campus Inc.

The higher education bill also sets aside $10 million for the U.S. Department of Justice to issue grants to universities that administer programs to prevent on-campus violence against women.

DOJ and DOE will receive $1 million to conduct a study of colleges’ responses to sexual assault complaints. The bill authorizes additional grants for programs and training that deal specifically with the prevention of binge drinking and alcohol abuse on campus.

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