Study finds most U.S. colleges in violation of federal campus crime reporting law

Only about one-third of American colleges anduniversities are fully complying with federal law in reporting sexual assaults,according to a study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Thestudy points to substantial problems on campus over inadequate preventionprograms, reporting policies and hearing procedures. Despite the negativefindings, the study also states that institutions have made some progress inmaking these prevention and response policies more accessible tostudents.

The Education Development Center Inc. and the University ofCincinnati conducted the study. It is the first comprehensive investigation ofhow institutions comply with the requirements of the 1998 Disclosure of CampusSecurity Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, also known as the Clery Act.The law applies to all institutions of higher learning that receive federalfunding, public or private, and specifies requirements on preventing andresponding to rape and sexual assault.

The study listed a number ofissues of concern. For example, the study noted the definitions for “sexualassault” and “rape” used by states and universities were lacking. It alsoconcluded that underreporting by victims remains the most significant challengefacing campus and law enforcement authorities.

“This study confirms theexistence of a widespread misperception among college administrators thatreporting rates of the crime accurately reflect how often the crime is attemptedor committed,” says Heather Karjane, the study’s principal investigator. “Thatis simply not true.”

Karjane suggested that openness and recognition ofsexual assault on the part of administrators could lead to more educatedcommunity and a safer campus.

“In order to facilitate the reportingprocess, campus administrators need to openly acknowledge that sexual assaultoccurs within the student population; it is not typically the result ofstranger-rapist intruders breaking into an otherwise safe campus community,”said Karjane.

SPLC VIEW: These findings — while disturbing —are no surprise and reflect much of what we what we have found in our ownsurveys — and what we hear on a weekly basis from student journalistsacross the country. While the situation has improved in recent years, campuscrime — sometimes intentionally, sometimes not — continues to beunderreported. Some of the noncompliance issues can probably be attributed tothe law itself, which can be confusing. However, we have little doubt that mostof the problems could be solved if most schools spent as much time and energytrying to comply with the law as they seem to spend trying to get aroundit.