Covering Campus Crime
Speaker: Frank LoMonte
Time: Sunday, 1:30 p.m.
Vocal could be an understatement when it came to our Student Law Press Center speaker in our covering campus crime session. The Pendulum has recently been interested in the rights of student journalists and what exactly records we are entitled to. I have personally taken a particular interest in the subject, perhaps more than I actually should, and knew from the start this session would be one I wanted to attend.
Sam covered the gist of what occurred during the session so I would like to take this opportunity to expand on some of the items governmental officials are required to release.
Clery Act: This federal bill requires all colleges and universities to disclosure certain timely and annual information about campus crime and security politicies. It was passed in 1990 after Jeanna Clery was found raped and murdered in her Lehigh University dorm and the university did not inform the students of what took place.
- Institutions must publish annual report disclosing campus security policies and three years worth of selected crime statistics. (A list of what is reported can be found here.) Elon’s is located here. Please note it is only updated to 2008.
- Institutions must make timely warnings to the campus community about crimes that post an ongoing threat to students and employees. This is why Smith Jackson sends e-mails at 3 a.m. after someone has been assaulted or there has been an indecent exposure incident.
- Each institution with a police or security department must have a public crime log updated within 48 hours. They are required to release the nature, date, time and general location of each crime. This should be enough of a starting point for a reporter. Asking for an incident report is the next step.
- The U.S. Department of Education collects and disseminates the crime statistics. Please report any violations to the department of education.
- Campus community sexual assault victims are assured of certain basic rights.
- Institutions that fail to comply may be fined or lose eligibility to participate in federal student aid programs.
Two more important pieces of information. Elon University has campus police officers that have the power to arrest and carry a firearm. Thus are they are required to comply with North Carolina public records even though they are a private university. This means releasing incident reports, arrest reports and other statistical data to any citizen that asks for the information. More information about what North Carolina public records are can be found at the North Carolina Press Association. You can ask for free copies of the laws and additional resources. If you don’t feel like waiting for one to be mailed to you, stop by The Pendulum’s office and we can give you a free copy as well.
Also FERPA is another important piece of legislation that affects student journalists. While it was mentioned at the session there was not a lot of information offered. The Society of Professional Journalists offered a Nuts and Bolts guide to FERPA and can be used as a resource.
As I gain more information on media law and press rights, I hope to let other student journalists know what resources are available and what their rights are. For far to long have students believed the police officers when they have been told an incident is under investigation or information is private. A student journalist must know their rights and I hope some of this information proved useful.