Clery Act compliance at Grinnell

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By Teresa Fleming and Eva Lilienfeld
flemingt17@grinnell.edu and lilienfe17@grinnell.ed

Under the Clery Act, colleges and universities participating in federal student financial aid programs are required to collect and publish statistics about crimes which are reported on their campuses. This includes most institutes of higher learning in the United States, which have interpreted the mandate in various ways.

The Clery Act was named for Jeanne Clery, a college student who was raped and murdered in her Lehigh University dorm room by another Lehigh student in 1986. Since the Clery Act took effect in 1991, schools are required to report campus crimes in three ways:

First, schools are required to record crimes, which are reported in a daily crime log, which must be made readily available for students.

Second, schools are required to release the crime statistics that were reported within a given academic year by Oct. 1 of the same year.

Thirdly, schools are required by the Clery Act’s Timely Notice provision to send out campus-wide notifications about crimes that are considered, in the words of the Clery Act, to “be a threat to other students or employees.” Such crimes can include murder, sex offenses and aggravated assaults.

To comply with the Clery Act, Grinnell keeps an updated crime log at the office of security, where students can review it. The annual security report is available to view online through Grinnell’s website. The College also sends out timely warnings of certain reported crimes.

“A timely notice is a warning and an announcement of a concern for imminent danger to the community which is assessed by an authorized individual and/or threat assessment team,” Title IX Coordinator and Clery expert Angela Voos wrote in an email to The S&B. “Depending on the threat, a threat assessment team or authorized individual, such as the Director of Campus Safety and Security, will make the determination and Security will put the alert out.”

Students were notified by email in accordance with the Timely Notice provision of the Clery Act when the illegal drug MDMA was found on campus on Jan. 24, 2015. The incident was the only time in the current academic year students received a Timely Notice email.

“Cases of aggravated assault and sex offenses are considered on a case-by-case basis, depending on the facts of the case and the information known by Campus Safety and Security,” Director of Security Steve Briscoe wrote in an email to The S&B. “For example, if a physical assault occurs between two students who have a disagreement, there may be no on-going threat to other Grinnell College community members and a Timely Warning would not be distributed.”

The College’s daily crime log for 2014 listed 22 reports which were described as “sex offense” or “sexual offenses.” Students received no emails from security regarding these incidents.

Occidental College professor and co-founder of the organization End Rape on Campus Caroline Heldman said that students at Occidental have argued for more frequent Timely Notices about sexual offenses which are reported at their college.

“At Occidental College, students believed that any rapist on campus posed a continuing threat – or alleged rapist,” Heldman said. “So, when a report came in, students were arguing that they should be informed, because a campus rape problem is a serial rape problem. If an alleged rapist is still on campus, he or she may pose a threat to the rest of the campus. A lot of schools do not interpret it that way. They will only issue a Timely Warning if they consider something to be an imminent threat.”

According to the study conducted by David Lisak and Paul Miller and referenced in the documentary recently screened on campus, “The Hunting Ground,” almost two-thirds of rapists studied committed an average of six rapes.

Two years ago, Heldman filed a Clery complaint to the Department of Education against Occidental. Heldman has also worked with schools other than Occidental to file Clery complaints, though none have come to fruition yet. According to Heldman, the Department of Education has been slow to process Clery complaints due to a backlog of cases.

“A lot of schools look at [the Timely Notice Provision] and they do not perceive there to be an ongoing threat if the person has been named and they know who they are. It’s when there is a stranger who is still at large — whether it’s a student or otherwise— who has committed that violation. That is how most schools interpret it,” Heldman said. “I think in the coming months and years we are going to see a radical shift in campus policy as the Clery department of the Department of Education starts handing out the biggest fines that we have seen.”