On Friday, October 16, the Department of Education replaced its long-standing guidance for how colleges should record and report campus crimes to the Department through the Clery Act. The 265-page Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting will be replaced with a 13-page addendum to the handbook. Signed in 1990, the Clery Act has served as a critical measurement of student safety aimed at providing transparency around campus crime policy and statistics. The Clery Act requires institutions that participate in federal financial aid programs to report crimes on or near their campus to the U.S. Department of Education.
The Department made the change because they saw that there was “overriding focus on lengthy annual statistical reports, which may have taken resources away from the mission of campus safety, including potentially reallocating resources on hiring additional security staff.” Additionally, the Department referred to a 2015 bipartisan Senate report that referred to the handbook as “unnecessarily voluminous.” One change is that institutions no longer need to track crimes that occur within a mile off-campus and can instead opt to decide what areas are monitored.
While simplifying the Clery Act provides some relief to some challenging aspects of the Act such as tracking off-campus incidents, it adds additional strain on universities due the simplification of the guidelines. This has caused some concerns among student conduct experts who worry that these new regulations provide little guidance on how institutions should interpret the requirements related to off and on-campus student activity under the Clery Act. Additionally, the concern is that additional resources and staff will have to now be devoted to the interpretation and assessing how these new statutes and regulations apply to their specific institutions.
In a blog post by the Clery Center, founded by the parents of Jeanne Clery, a Lehigh University freshman who was raped and murdered in 1986, and for whom the law is named, noted:
No guidance is perfect — we have, in fact, advocated for certain changes to the Handbook to address areas of overcomplication or confusion for institutions; however, we do not anticipate that there will be fewer questions with the rescission of this guidance altogether. The Department just has one less resource available to help answer these persistent questions… While no longer subregulatory guidance, we encourage institutions to continue to reference the Handbook, to better understand existing promising practices and effective approaches to implementation.
Higher education institutions can better protect themselves from the changing Clery guidelines and create easy workflows to ease any confusion from the Department to avoid Clery Fines and Title IX violations if they can quickly react to complaints and identify behavioral threats after an incident occurs. Symplicity Advocate is the trusted solution for student conduct, Title IX, and behavioral intervention. Advocate collects critical data to share with key decision-makers and ensures that everyone has the information needed to make the right decisions. Additionally, Advocate helps institutions avoid liability issues by ensuring compliance with DOE and OCR.