In my experience, I often hear the same refrain from both parents and students when looking at a college or university located in an urban setting: "What about safety? The campus is in a bad part of the city, right?" This concern is understandable, especially considering that many schools in cities don't feature a traditional academic quad, for example. Yet, too often these same families make incorrect assumptions about suburban or rural campuses being safer because of their location. Moreover, they focus on crimes such as muggings and theft, without considering the statistics on sexual assault, hate crimes, or drug and alcohol violations.
So what can students and their adults do to get a more accurate idea of what kinds of crime occur on a campus? This is where The Clery Act comes into play. Signed into law in 1990, The Clery Act is a federal statute mandates that every college and university receiving federal financial aid must collect and disclose crime statistics on campus. Every campus must issue an annual security report, keep a crime log, and must warn the community when the following crimes occur on campus:
- murder (including manslaughter)
- sex offenses
-motor vehicle theft
- liquor-law and drug-related violations
- hate crimes
Where can you find a school's Clery Report? The Federal Student Aid website is a great place to start, since they allow you to search Clery Act Reports by year and by school. Here's the website: https://studentaid.gov/data-center/school/clery-act-reports . Currently, the most recent year for Clery Act Reports available is 2020. Examples of schools with violations in 2020 include Baylor University and University of California Berkley.
Another good idea is to set a Google Alert for a particular college or university. That way, you will be notified about any events that occur on campus, including crimes. To set up a Google Alert, follow the instructions outlined here: https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/4815696?hl=en .
Finally, you may be able to read a particular school's most recent Clery Act Report somewhere on their website. Of course, some schools make it easier to locate than others, so I recommend using the "Search" function and typing in the word "Clery" to see what you can find.
While we all want our students to be safe at their higher education institution, it's important to have everyone be aware of what kinds of crimes occur on a campus (and how frequently they happen there). Use the above tools to inform yourself and your family - knowledge is power!
Maruta Z. Vitols is an independent educational consultant in the metro-Boston area. When not helping students achieve their dreams, she enjoys hanging out with her dog, exploring new places with her husband, and doing yoga.