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Public Universities, Colleges Would Like Help With Clery Reporting, Auditor’s Survey Finds
Columbus – Ohio’s public universities and colleges face a number of challenges in fulfilling the federal mandate to report campus crime statistics and detail campus security policy and procedures, according to a survey of these institutions conducted by Auditor of State Dave Yost. The survey makes clear that universities and colleges would welcome help from the state in fulfilling their obligations under the law known as the Clery Act.
“Campus safety is a vital issue, and that’s why the Clery Act is an important resource for parents and students as they make the decision about where to go to college,” Auditor Yost said. “But, the Clery Act is a massive, complicated federal law, and our public institutions tell us they often struggle to comply with the mandates.”
On Oct. 1 each year, Ohio’s 37 public universities and colleges are required by the Clery Act to report their campus crime statistics for the previous three years and detail their emergency notification systems and other matters involving campus safety. The aim is to help parents and students assess security at these institutions.
To get a better understanding of the challenges involved in Clery compliance, the Auditor of State conducted a 48-question survey of Ohio’s higher-education institutions, asking them about the resources, time and expense they devote to Clery compliance, as well as the problems they face and what assistance is needed.
Whether it’s a large, metropolitan university or a small-town community college, many reported challenges in complying with the Clery Act. Small colleges report that they are stretched to provide the staff and money to support Clery compliance activities, including paying for the training to understand the sprawling law. Large universities can face daunting amounts of paperwork and research to fulfill Clery requirements, particularly when reporting crime statistics from out-of-state and international locations that students visit for university-related activities.
Clery-related issues that respondents highlighted included:
- Lack of time, money and staff to collect data and prepare Clery reports.
- The lack of resources for Clery training.
- Difficulties reconciling some state crime definitions with the definitions in the Clery Act.
- Uncertainty about how some crimes should be classified and reported.
- Difficulties seeking crime reports from some off-campus, non-university law enforcement agencies in places where students travel for university-related activities. One respondent noted that the institution had to reach out to approximately 500 outside and international law-enforcement agencies to meet Clery reporting mandates.
- Keeping up with changes in the law.
- Identifying who on campus should be included as a “campus security authority.” Campus security authorities are employees who have direct involvement in student activities and are in a position to receive information about and report incidents covered by the Clery Act.
Based on survey responses, the Auditor of State recommends that Ohio officials:
- Provide convenient and affordable Clery Act compliance training for colleges and universities across the state.
- Create a Clery Act resource center to provide assistance and support to higher education institutions, with a focus on quickly resolving questions about compliance. The center could include an online platform where university and college Clery compliance staff could collaborate and support one another.
- Collect and analyze Clery reports to identify crime trends, compare them to trends in other states and propose ways to reduce campus crime.
- Require schools – provided resources are available – to post their daily crime reports online, along with maps showing the location and details of Clery-reportable crimes.
- Clery Act compliance is a weighty responsibility, especially considering that each violation of reporting requirements could result in a fine of nearly $55,000 imposed by the U.S. Department of Education, which oversees compliance.
Among other things, the Clery Act requires higher-education institutions to:
- Collect and publish campus crime statistics.
- Publish an annual security report.
- Issue campus alerts about continuing threats or emergency situations.
- Provide educational campaigns about dating violence, domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault, and detail the disciplinary procedures for these violations.
- Submit crime statistics to the U.S. Department of Education.
- Compile a daily crime log (only for institutions that have a campus security/police department).
A full copy of this report is available online.
- Overview of responses to the Auditor’s survey
- Full surveys completed by each institution
- Interactive map with reports on campus crime and safety (2017)
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 6,000 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.