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Promoting Clery Act Compliance

Strategies to improve campus safety, security and transparency
University Business, March 2017

The Jeanne Clery Act, passed in 1990, requires all colleges and universities that receive federal funding to share information about crime on campus and their efforts to improve campus safety, as well as to inform the public of crime in or around campus. Revised and amended several times since its inception, compliance with the Clery Act requires careful and deliberate coordination among various campus officials and entities. The U.S. Department of Education has increased the number and scope of its compliance reviews and has been fining campuses at an unprecedented rate, including a multimillion-dollar fine in one recent case. Beyond fines, there are other consequences of noncompliance, including job losses and damage to an institution’s culture, climate and reputation.  

In this web seminar, two experts at the National Association of Clery Compliance Officers and Professionals.discussed some practical strategies for promoting Clery Act compliance at any institution.

Executive Director
National Association of
Clery Compliance Officers
& Professionals

The Clery Act passed over 25 years ago. The purpose is to provide the campus community with accurate, complete and timely information about the safety of the environment so that individuals can make informed decisions to keep themselves safe.
There are various consequences for non-compliance. Institutions receive fines and that certainly gets attention, but the negative media attention is something that oftentimes campus leaders are very concerned about.

You can be audited for Clery compliance in a few different ways. The original way was after a complaint had been filed with the Department of Education (DOE). If a complaint is filed, it is very likely that they will audit you.

The newest way is the media assessment. There’s a team of over 25 auditors working at the DOE doing Clery Act audits. One of the things they do is set up Google Alerts. Any time a campus public safety agency or a college campus is hitting the news because of crime-related issues, the DOE is looking at whether there’s a potential Clery violation.

And financial aid auditors are still doing summary auditing. The DOE has created a partnership with the FBI, which also claims to do some random auditing of institutions.

Eighty-three institutions of higher education have had violations involving the Clery Act, and 65 institutions have had violations involving the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act, which now falls under the Clery compliance unit. The downside for campuses is that when Clery audits are happening, audits for Drug Free Schools and Communities Act compliance are also happening. So if you don’t have your ducks in a row with regard to compliance with the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act and you get audited for a Clery audit, or vice versa, you will likely end up being audited for both of them.

Since 2014, 21 institutions have been fined for Clery or Drug Free Schools and Communities Act violations, with a total of over $3.4 million in penalties.

Director of Research and Strategic Initiatives
National Association of Clery Compliance Officers & Professionals

Complying with the Clery Act can’t be achieved solely by relying on your institution’s campus police or public safety unit. The requirements have gotten more complex and have touched more areas of the institution.

One of the foundational requirements of the Clery Act is for institutions to identify what the law calls “Campus Security Authorities” (CSAs).

The DOE identifies four groups:

  1. Every person who works for the campus police or security department at your institution, regardless of what they do.
  2. People who perform security-related functions who don’t work directly for your campus police or public safety department.
  3. Anyone referenced in your institution’s annual security report as individuals or offices to whom crimes should be reported. The ASR is a comprehensive publication that has to contain institutional policy statements and statistics.
  4. Officials at the institution who have significant responsibility for student and campus activities, in the broadest possible sense.

Some institutions may have a couple of hundred CSAs. Large institutions, particularly if they’re residential or have a large athletics program, could have thousands.

This is a critical concept, because institutions have to identify who their CSAs are, have to notify them, and have to train them in their responsibility as a CSA, which is to report crimes that they become aware of to the reporting structure identified by the institution. If all CSAs haven’t been identified, then the institution can’t gather crime statistics from them, which is a serious violation of the Clery Act.

Training CSAs is important. Your institution cannot realistically expect CSAs to recognize when a Clery Act crime may have been reported to them if they’ve never been trained about how those crimes are defined. They also can’t be expected to fulfill their responsibilities if the institution has never told them what their job is as a CSA.

We often pose a few key questions to institutions to measure current CSA efforts:

  1. Has your institution identified all of the CSAs and actively gathered statistics from them at least once per year?
  2. Have you documented that you’ve identified these individuals and that you have made a request for crime reports or statistics from them each calendar year?
  3. Do you have a list of all your CSAs for each year?
  4. Has everyone you’ve identified as a CSA been trained in their responsibilities so they know what they must do?
  5. Are you maintaining documentation of the training that you’ve provided?
  6. Has the campus police or public safety staff at your institution received additional training beyond what you would normally provide other CSAs?

Stafford: One of the other critical foundational issues of the Clery Act is your Clery Geography. One of the key concepts is the on-campus category. “On-campus” is defined as being owned or controlled by the institution within the same reasonably contiguous geographic area and being used to support the institution’s educational purposes. Basically, all of your academic institutions, residence halls, support buildings—everything that you would see on a traditional campus that is reasonably contiguous.

It’s important that you asses locations that you own or control, and then you should be putting together a Clery Map. You don’t want to not have assessed this if you get audited by the DOE.

DeBowes: You are required as an institution to disclose statistics for the three most recent calendar years by each of your Clery Geography categories, and you have to report the statistics in your annual security report as well as to the DOE, and therefore the public, via the Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool.

I encourage you to visit the Data Analysis Collection Tool and look up your institution. If the crime statistics recorded for the last year or two don’t match your annual security report, then you’re out of compliance. That’s an easy way to know immediately if you’ve made an error, and then you can try to correct it before the DOE discovers the error.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, visit 

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