WASHINGTON – Wearing a button with her murdered daughter’s picture on it, Connie Clery called upon Congress Wednesday to pass a bill making college disciplinary hearings involving criminal allegations open to the public.
“Student-on-student crimes are quietly channelled through rape crisis centers, deans’ offices and campus disciplinary committees, never appearing in the campus security department’s statistical reports,” said Clery, who along with her husband founded Security on Campus Inc. in 1987.
Speaking on the lawn of the Capitol, Clery said that by opening disciplinary hearings administrators will not be able to hide criminal allegations or activity.
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, is among the bill’s cosponsors.
Supporters say the bill will close loopholes left by previous legislation.
A bill passed by Congress in 1990 required schools to track crime statistics and report their findings to parents, students and prospective students. But a separate measure, passed earlier, required disciplinary hearings to be closed to protect students’ confidentiality on academic and financial records.
“Students are at risk because schools are hiding major felonies, including rape and assault, behind the doors of secret campus courts,” said Mark Goodman, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, which provides legal assistance and advice to student journalists.
But Terry Hartle, vice president of the American Council on Education, said open hearings would keep some victims, who may be embarrassed by publicity, from pressing charges. The council is a nonprofit trade association representing 1,700 colleges and universities.
Ben Clery, Connie’s son and president of the Security on Campus Inc., said the bill would require all crimes to be reported to university security and recorded in a crime log available to the public.
The act also would establish uniform reporting categories such as larceny, vandalism, simple assault and manslaughter to avoid confusion over how to label crimes, he said.
The Society of Professional Journalists, which represents working and student journalists, gave its support to the bill.
Steve Geimann, president of SPJ, said, “There’s no good reason for colleges to hide such activities.” Jeanne Clery was a freshman at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania in 1986 when she was beaten, raped and murdered in her dorm room by another student, Mrs. Clery said. The family had not been made aware that crime was a problem on campus, she said. -30-