Most college students understand the level of safety on their campus, but sometimes they can get a little too comfortable.A much needed reminder of campus safety comes this week, as this past Monday was the deadline for colleges to release their annual crime report, as required by the Jeanne Clery Act. All colleges that except federal money, which includes almost all public and private colleges that accept federal financial aid, are required to release this report that chronicles the last three years’ worth of serious crime by category. The act is named after a Lehigh University student who was raped and murdered in her dorm room.
To the list of those routine-but-essential tasks that belong on every to-do list -- see the dentist, change your smoke-alarm batteries, rotate your tires -- add this one: Get a copy of your school or college's rulebook -- and read it.Each fall, returning students are ambushed by policy changes that, with remarkable frequency, tend to get enacted during the summer term when scrutiny by the public is at its lowest.For instance, the University of North Carolina is among the schools that, in compliance with a recent federal mandate, rewrote its disciplinary standards to make it easier to prove a claim of sexual assault.Of far lesser consequence, dorm residents at Northwestern University recently learned that the fee for lost keys will nearly triple, to $200, for a third offense.No matter the stakes, it's important for campus journalists to keep current on rule changes enacted by campus trustees or governing boards -- especially those that impact the student media.
The North Carolina Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case regarding campus police records at private schools, an important victory for the Elon University graduate and former student journalist.In June, the N.C.
Student journalists at private colleges may have a stronger argument for access to previously off-limits police reports from campus law enforcement, as a result of a recent North Carolina Supreme Court ruling.The case, State v.
To the extent that it is understood at all, the Jeanne Clery Act is known as the federal law that requires college police to tally and disclose reported crimes on their campuses.So it may seen anomalous that a crime not reported to police at all -- the alleged sexual assault of a 10-year-old boy in the football team showers at Penn State -- might be the basis of a Clery Act violation.To understand why requires understanding the scope of a university's disclosure obligations under Clery -- which, it seems increasingly clear, many colleges and universities thsmselves either fail to understand or affirmatively ignore.The U.S.
Two college journalists at West Virginia's Marshall University have won the Society of Professional Journalists' prestigious "Sunshine Award" for exposing the existence of an off-the-books set of campus police reports separate from the ones made available for public review.The SPJ will recognize Samantha Turley and Marcus Constantino for a series of October 2010 stories in their campus newspaper, The Parthenon, documenting that the Marshall University Police Department selectively withheld some crime reports from a log provided to student journalists.The existence of "off-the-books crimes" came to light as journalists from The Parthenon inquired into widespread rumors about a sexual assault in a campus dorm (a complaint that police ultimately decided they lacked the evidence to pursue). Any report to police of a serious crime such as rape should show up in the daily crime log available for public inspection, but the log provided to The Parthenon made no mention of it.Turley and Constantino will receive their award at SPJ's national convention Sept.
Hundreds of angry students at Dickinson College recently marched on the administration building to demand greater public disclosure of sexual assaults at the 2,300-student private institution near Harrisburg, Pa.The students obtained some concessions -- their administrators agreed to more readily activate the campus-wide alert system upon learning of sex crimes -- and they also spotlighted what Pennsylvania's Patriot-News called the "top-secret justice system" that enables colleges to minimize public disclosure of campus offenses, even violent ones.In an extensive investigation published last year, the Center for Public Integrity analyzed the annual crime statistics filed with the U.S.
College disciplinary records are where the rubber meets the road for student privacy law. They are the confidential records that journalists most want -- and that colleges most want to withhold.While journalists have very little need for grades, attendance sheets and other academic records, they often are legitimately interested in how campus judicial bodies do (or don't) mete out punishment for disciplinary infractions.