WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Education published the final rules to carry out changes to the Clery Act today, requiring colleges and universities to collect and disclose crime statistics about the number of reported crimes that were investigated and determined to be unfounded. Previously, those incidents were not required to be reported, so the rule requires the disclosure of statistics from the past three calendar years as well as those going forward.
"That's the biggest change we've made," Lynn Mahaffie, acting assistant secretary for postsecondary education, said during a press call Friday. "It allows us to better monitor what crimes are being reported, see the extent that reporting is being abused, and provide technical assistance."
The rules place more emphasis on not only sexual assault but also dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. Colleges must describe each type of disciplinary proceeding used by the institution for each violation and how that is determined. They must include in their annual security reports a statement of policy and procedures for dealing with these crimes. Also new to the final version of the rules is a requirement for colleges to record incidents of stalking based on the location of where either the stalker first began stalking or where the victim first became aware of it.
"I think that fact that we're going to be paying attention to dating violence and stalking is a wonderful step forward, " Lisa Maatz, vice president of government relations at the American Association of University Women, said. "When we talk about sexual and gender-based violence on campus, we're not often talking about the bogeyman jumping out of the bushes on the college green so this is a much more realistic way to look at these crimes."
The final rules are not significantly different than those proposed by the department in June. As part of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, a 15-member negotiated rule making panel consisting of sexual assault survivors, victims’ advocates, law enforcement representatives, and college officials reached a consensus in April about what those rules should be, and they've remained largely unchanged since.
The changes announced in June added bias based on gender identity and national origin to the definition of hate crimes under the Clery Act; strengthened protections for victim confidentiality and required universities to allow both the accuser and the accused to be accompanied by an adviser, including an attorney, during disciplinary proceedings. While universities can still limit how an adviser participates in the process, the new rule represented a marked shift in the statute. Originally, institutions controlled which types of advisers students could have.
“Schools would limit who could be brought in, but in reality there would often be an attorney in the wings helping the accused,” Laura Dunn, executive director of SurvJustice and a sexual assault survivor who served on the rulemaking panel, said at the time. “It was a distinctly unfair business. So advisers are important. A lot of victims are retraumatized by the process. They’re cursed at, or demeaned, or humiliated with details regarding their sex life or mental health discussed openly. Just having an adviser there can help that.”
The rules officially go into effect on July 1, 2015, but the department urged colleges to make "a good faith effort" to follow the changes immediately. Colleges had already been asked to include the new statistics regarding stalking and dating violence in this year's security reports -- a request several colleges did not follow -- but Mahaffie said the department does not plan on actually enforcing the changes until next year.
Institutions that do not comply with Clery's reporting requirements could lose access to federal financial aid.
“The department has the responsibility to ensure that all of our students have the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe environment,” Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, stated. “These new rules require institutions to ensure that students and employees have vital information about crime on campus and the services and protections available to victims if a crime does occur, which will be significant assets in addressing the growing problems of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking on our nation’s campuses.”
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