Clery Center, Started By Parents Of Murdered Student, Opposes Safe Campus Act

The bill would limit what sexual assault cases colleges can investigate, and safety groups are not fans.

The Clery Center for Security On Campus, a nonprofit organization that trains colleges on addressing violence on campus, released a statement last week opposing the Safe Campus Act.

The Safe Campus Act, sponsored by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), would require a student alleging sexual assault or battery to report the incident to police in order for his or her college to take action in response to the alleged misconduct. Only sexual assault, abuse and battery -- and not other illegal behaviors -- would require students to notify law enforcement in order for a school to provide accommodations to a victim or to levy a punishment for the offender.

It is this provision that the Clery Center primarily opposes. 

"If implemented, [the Safe Campus Act] will hinder campus reports of sexual assault by mandating a system that removes power from survivors," the group said in a statement (emphasis theirs). "This is especially disappointing during a time when as a nation we are making unprecedented progress towards increased awareness of sexual assault on campus." 

The Safe Campus Act does not force students to report issues like physical assault, theft or alleged drug deals to police in order for a school to intervene. Sexual assault involving faculty or employees would not be subject to the law enforcement requirement.

The Clery Center was started in 1987 by the parents of Jeanne Clery, a Lehigh University student who was raped and murdered in her dorm a year earlier. The nation's first campus safety law, the Clery Act, was named after her and passed in 1990. The Clery Act requires colleges to accurately track and disclose certain crimes on campus, and recent updates also provide a number of rights to students involved in cases where colleges adjudicate sexual violence.

The Clery Center joins 28 sexual assault survivor advocacy groups that have also come out against the Safe Campus Act. The VTV Family Outreach Foundation, a nonprofit started by the families of the victims in the Virginia Tech massacre, has not publicly declared opposition to the bill, but said the group has reservations and hopes to work with Salmon's office to change the language of the bill.

National groups representing fraternities and sororities, and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit civil liberties group, say they support the Safe Campus Act because it enhances due process protections for accused students.  

Proponents of the bill have also said involving police will lead to removing more sexual predators from the streets. But the Clery Center said a victim may not want to take their assailant to trial.

"We oppose lawmakers limiting options for survivors and defining what justice 'should' look like," the Clery Center said (emphasis theirs). "For some survivors, pursuing the law enforcement process may feel like justice; for other survivors, justice is walking into a classroom and not having to sit next to their rapists. Both of these options (and more) are offered under the Clery Act and Title IX in a manner that recognizes that everyone has different reactions to trauma."

Salmon's office did not respond to request for comment. 


Tyler Kingkade covers higher education and sexual violence, and is based in New York. You can contact him at tyler.kingkade@huffingtonpost.com, or on Twitter: @tylerkingkade


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