Staff editorial: Lets use the Clery Act

NW Staff

In 1986, 19-year-old Jeanne Clery was raped and murdered in her dorm room at Lehigh University. After her death, her parents found out students on Lehigh’s campus hadn’t been informed about 38 other violent crimes. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990, which Clery’s parents helped campaign. The name was later changed to the Clery Act in honor of Jeanne.

The Clery Act is a federal law that requires colleges and universities to disclose timely and annual information about campus crime and security policies. Standard procedure for this is to provide a public campus crime map, like the one available on NMU Public Safety’s web site. Schools also have to publish an annual report by Oct. 1, stating three years worth of campus crime statistics. In NMU’s most recent report, the most alarming increase in crime was for Liquor Law Violations, which increased from 38 reported cases in 2007 to 90 in 2008. But this is not the only alarming issue.

Although other crimes like criminal sexual conduct, burglary and violation of drug laws have either decreased or stayed the same, people most likely don’t even realize serious crimes like these occur on NMU’s campus. This is obviously not due to lack of available information, but rather apathy on the students’ part to actually use that information.

For the small, tight-knit community that is NMU, crime is a big deal. At Ferris State, a school substantially larger than NMU, there were only three sex offenses reported in 2008, versus 11 that same year at Northern. We as students are not doing our jobs to help in keeping NMU as safe as possible. The information provided on the crime map is made open to the public for a reason. Public Safety can only do so much, and if students aren’t educating themselves on issues around campus, they are at a great safety disadvantage.

The reasoning behind the Clery Act is enough to show how important the process is. Obviously the Clerys never thought this would happen to their daughter, but it did. They wanted to make sure crime statistics were known so that students had the chance to take the correct precautions. By choosing to ignore them, we are not only being naive but disrespecting the act and its reasoning.

The Clery Act provides students, both current and prospective, with a valuable resource to educate themselves on what could happen to them while on campus. It is important to pay attention to the fact that these things can and do happen here, and to avoid the “it won’t happen to me” mentality.