Congress passes legislation affecting college student media

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate passed legislation reauthorizing the HigherEducation Act on July 9 adding provisions that could significantly effectthe way public and private colleges nationwide handle campus crime andstudent free expression.

The bill, adopted as the Senates version of H.R. 6, will now go toa conference committee so differences between the House and Senate versionsof the legislation can be ironed out before the bill is submitted to thePresident.

CAMPUS CRIME LOGS(See HR 6 EAS: section 486 (d))

According to this provision, schools would be required to makereports or logs of campus crime available to the public within two businessdays of the initial report. Crime reports would have to include the date,time, general location and nature of the crime.

The provision excepts situations where the release of informationwould jeopordize the confidentiality of the victim or the criminalinvestigation.

While the above provisions were included in the House version ofthe Higher Education Act’s reauthorization passed in May, the Senateversion included an additional provision. New information about apreviously entered crime report would have to be submitted and madeavailable to the public within two days from when the police or securitydepartment became aware of the information.

FERPA(See HR 6 EAS: sections 486 (d) and 799D)

The Senate also passed two revisions of FERPA, commonly known asthe Buckley Amendment and is frequently used by schools to cover up campuscrime, which prohibits the release of student education records. The billincludes a provision allowing campus security to release records ofstudents found guilty of committing a crime.

However, the wording is such that it may mean no significant changefrom a 1992 amendment to FERPA that said law enforcement records are noteducation records. The House bill amended FERPA to allow the release of theoutcome of disciplinary proceedings to the public when a crime of violenceis involved.

Virginia Sens. John Warner and Charles Robb sponsored a provisionpermitting parental notification of violations of state, federal or localalcohol policies by underage students.

The amendment was in response to a recommendation submitted by aVirginia task force that studied drinking on college and universitycampuses.

The Virginia attorney general’s office had planned to send a letterto the Department of Justice to clarify whether the records were protectedby FERPA.

The Senate provision, however, amends FERPA to provide that therecords would be accessible to parents even if the student is over 18 andthe records are part of a student’s education records. The House bill didnot include a similar provision.


A provision offered by Sen. Jim Jeffords, R-Vt., on behalf of Sen.Arlen Specter, R-Pa., would expand the definintion of a campus for crimereporting purposes.

Under the provision, schools must report incidents occuring in thefollowing areas in campus crime statistics already required to be madepublic by federal law:

  • public property such as sidewalks, streets or parking facilitieswithin and around the campus.
  • property owned by the school such as restaurants or apartmentsbut controlled by a third party.
  • any property or building that is owned or controlled by aninstitution that is used by students even if it is not geographicallycontiguous to the campus.
  • all student residential facilities owned or controlled by the school.
  • any building or property owned or controlled by a studentorganization recognized by the school.

The Specter provision, based on the senator’s “Campus CrimeDisclosure Act,” also adds a category to campus crime reporting guidelinesso incidents occuring on public property near or on a campus may bereported separately.

The bill also added arson to the categories of crimes that must bedisclosed. Murder was changed to homicide, which would include negligentand non-negligent manslaughter. In the House version, three catergorieswere added including manslaugter, larceny and arson. The law alreadyrequires schools to report statistics for crimes including sex offenses,robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft.

The Senate also expanded the disclosure of campus hate crimes. Theprovision would add vandalism and simple assault to the list of categoriesof hate crimes that have to be reported. Incidents where there is evidenceof prejudice based on an individual’s actual or perceived race, gender,religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity or disability would be included.


According to the Senate bill, the Secretary of Education would berequired to report to Congress ANY institutions found to be innon-compliance with the campus crime statistics reporting proceduresrequired. The provision stipulates that fines of up to $25,000 would beimposed for each instance where a violation or misrepresentation of thecrime statistics requirements was found. The Department of Education wasalso instructed to assist schools in non-compliance to accurately reportcrimes. The House bill did not include a similar penalty provision.

SEXUAL ASSAULT STUDY(See HR 6 EAS: section 486 (d))

The bill would require the Secretary of Education, with theassistance of the Attorney General, to conduct a national study to examinean institutions’ actions after a sexual assault incident, including the useof secret disciplinary proceedings. The Senate approved $1 million toconduct the study and stated that the study should be submitted to it nolater than Sept. 1, 1999. No similar provision was included in the Houseversion of the bill.


Sen. Specter also included a provision to rename the CampusSecurity Act the “Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy andCampus Crime Statistics Act” in memory of Clery who was raped and murderedat Lehigh University in 1986. Her parents, Howard and Connie Clery, beganthe group Security on Campus to bring attention to campus crime reportingproblems.

FREE EXPRESSION(See HR 6 EAS: sections 797 and 798)

The Senate bill also included a provision supporting greater FirstAmendment protection for college students, and another that couldpotentially prompt some of that protection to be taken away.

Sponsored by Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, the first provisionexpresses the Senate’s opinion that administrators should not punish astudent at either a public or private school for speaking freely.

Specifically, if a student gathers with others peacefully, orengages in any other expression protected by the First Amendment, on oroff-campus, the freedom of expression and association provision states thatindividuals should be protected from “…expulsion, suspension, probation,censure, condemnation, reprimand, or any other disciplinary, coercive, oradverse action taken by an institution of higher education….”

The amendment is nearly identical to a provision sponsored by Rep.Bob Livingston’s, R-La., that was accepted in the House bill in May.

However, the Senate provision says efforts by universityadministrators to discourage alcohol abuse and to take action againstviolators of state liquor laws will not be considered violations of thefree expression legislation.

Another amendment, which its sponsors said is designed to targetbinge drinking on college campuses, could cause trouble for campusnewspaper editors.

The provision, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Biden Jr., D-Del., states,”The institution should adopt policies limiting the advertisement andpromotion of alcoholic beverages on campus.”

Susan Peterson, president of the College Newspaper and BusinessAdvertising Managers, said the wording of the provision is unclear, leavingopen the possibility that college administrators could use it asjustification to ban alcohol advertisements in campus publications.

“It’s gray,” she said. “I’d hate to see it happen, but theinterpretation is open to leeway. There can be other things done to teachpeople to drink responsibly.”

The issue was never considered when the provision was written, saidMark Rooney, press aide for Sen. Biden.

“I don’t know if I can answer that,” he said when asked if theprovision will affect student publications. “Administrators may try tojustify that.”

Rooney also said that it will not be an enforceable law, but rathera “sense of Congress” provision. Rooney added that Biden would never try to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of student newspapers.

To view a copy of this legisation, go to: Congressional Website at the Library of Congress and search for H.R. 6.

For the version of the Higher Education Amendments passed by the Senate onJuly 9, search for H.R. 6 EAS.

For the version of the Higher Education Amendments passed by the House inMay, search for H.R. 6 EH.