DOE updates Clery Act

Photo by Amanda Thomas

The Clery Act was recently amended by the Department of Education to refine and modernize rules and procedures for managing crime reports. Specifically, it now requires disclosing specifics on the number of reported crimes, including those which were investigated and determined to be unfounded.

“The recent changes to the Clery Act are welcomed and supported by the entire institute,” said Georgia Tech Police Department (GTPD) Chief Rob Connolly. “We are hopeful that the discussions prompted by these changes will help students better understand how they can protect themselves, and help the Institute prevent and improve our response to all forms of sexual assault.”

As the title, Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act) suggests, the bill presses the importance of meticulous crime log. Previously, information about crime reports that were later renounced by the claimer was not required to be reported.

Now, such cases are categorized as unfounded and are taken into account when the institution analyzes the criminal data.

The disclosure is especially relevant to the reporting of sexual assaults. Awareness of sexual assault on college campuses as well as pressure to do more has increased as sexual assault prevention has become a national issue.

“With all the measures we have taken, it is seen that sexual assault statistics reported at Georgia Tech are much lower than the statistics reported nationally,” Connolly said. “This may imply that there are sexual assault victims who are reluctant to seek assistance. Campus initiatives like the Sexual Violence Prevention Alliance and VOICE bring community members together to collaborate on ways to solve such issues.”

Collected data has become instrumental in directing where to place the focus of resources.

The sample size for the crime statistics report will encompass incidents on campus, public property within or immediately adjacent to the campus and in or on off-campus buildings or property that the institution owns or controls.

With the official upgrade of Clery Act, all public institutions are subject to the penalty of losing accreditation if they do not comply with the federal regulation.

“Crimes at GT are reported as required by law and regulation,” said Kathleen Wasch, managing attorney in the Office of Legal Affairs. “In addition, we exceed our obligations under the Clery Act by issuing Clery alerts both on and around the campus. Unlike many other urban schools, we send timely warnings for certain off-campus crimes not involving students if those crimes happen in areas close to the campus, where students are known to frequent.”

Besides the police department’s usual responsibility of relaying Uniform Crime Reports to the FBI, GTPD must publish a daily crime log. The Police Department’s activity also involves keeping in contact with Institute Communications for dispatching Clery Safety Alerts and GTENS messages.

Lisa White, fifth-year IE, is the Sexual Violence Student Advisory Board Chair, a committee initiated this year. It is the committee’s responsibility to ensure all recommendations from the summer task force are implemented.

White says that a lot is left to be done, but the changes in the Act are a positive step forward. Better visibility will help us see the scope of the problem.

“I think the WRC [is] doing a great job and everyone there is super into doing their job,” White said. “But, to tackle this kind of issue we need a bigger team to raise awareness and conduct workshops.”

Bystander intervention is one of the most important things to stop sexual misconduct according to White.

“If you are at a party and see your friend going with this really drunk girl, just go ahead and ask if everything is alright, and interfere if you have to,” White said. “Even if you see someone who looks uncomfortable on the dance floor, you can stand up for that person.”

The classical cases of assault are not the majority of the cases. Most instances of assault are by someone the victim knows and sometimes someone the victim is dating according to White.

“The workshops conducted by Health Promotions and the fraternity Man Up Week are steps in the right direction, but more resources are required taking into account the scale of the Institute,” White said.

GTPD has been conducting training seminars and webinars since the signing of the Clery Act two decades ago to deal with such cases.

According to Wasch, the Office of Legal Affairs reviews the Georgia Tech Campus Safety Report annually as well as help GTPD understand the legal terms and implications of Clery Act compliance requirements document.

According to Connolly, a group of students and campus departments for the Campus Security Authority which helps facilitate student and campus activities, discipline and campus judicial proceedings are part of the Authority.