Obama administration announces law on release of college crime statistics

Legislation will make more crime numbers available.  (Luke Parsnow | The Oswegonian)
Legislation will make more crime numbers available. (Luke Parsnow | The Oswegonian)

The Obama administration announced a new rule on Oct. 17 requiring colleges and universities to make their crime statistics available on stalking, dating violence and domestic violence, in hopes of keeping students safer.

The rule includes additional requirements to ensure institutions provide the most complete information possible to their students regarding sexual assault, to better inform and protect victims and clarify the process for collecting crime statistics they disclose in their annual security report. The reports should also include the number of crime incidents that were fully investigated and determined to be unfounded. Unfounded cases have not been included in their crime statistics during the three most recent calendar years.

The new rule also requires college campuses to add gender identity and national origin as two new categories of bias that serve as the basis for a hate crime. The institution must also describe each type of disciplinary proceeding used in cases of alleged dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, including the steps, anticipated timelines and decision-making process for each and how the institution determines which type of disciplinary proceeding to use. Colleges will also have to include a statement of policy regarding the institution’s programs to prevent dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, as well as the procedures the institutions will follow when one of these crimes is reported.

These changes comes under the Clery Act, both of which require colleges and universities to publish crime reports about crimes on campus and in the surrounding community. Under this rule from the U.S. Education Department, effective July 1, 2015, colleges and universities will be required to compile and make crime statistics available on stalking, dating violence and domestic violence.

“The department has the responsibility to ensure that all of our students have the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe environment,” said U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “These new rules require institutions to ensure that students and employees have vital information about crime on campus and the services and protections available to victims if a crime does occur, which will be significant assets in addressing the growing problems of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking on our nation’s campuses.”

The change was spurred by victim advocacy groups’ claims saying the current statistics do not provide a clear enough picture on the extent of sexual crimes committed on college campuses.

“I think it [the new rule] will make it more transparent for students and families looking at the Clery Report and give them a better sense of what is going on on the campuses they are looking at,” Oswego State Title IX Coordinator Lisa Evaneski said. “I also think that if we are able to create an environment where our students and employees know what is expected of them and how we will follow up it could make our campus safer.”

“The published statistics may be a deterring factor that could reduce assaults,” Oswego State student Ilayda Kelley said. “They could also inform students on campus, especially possible victims, to take precautions to protect themselves. Overall, this could make the campus a safer place than it was before.”

The Obama administration has taken a series of steps this year to fight sexual assaults on college and university campuses.

“Students should always be aware of their surroundings, know who they are out with and engage in smart, self-protective measures, such as walking in well-lit areas or not walking alone, particularly at night,” said public justice professor Jaclyn Schildkraut. “A lot of crime occurs when people become complacent and think it could never happen to them or it could never happen here at Oswego State. Therefore, it is really important that our students remain vigilant and watchful and always are aware.”