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EDITORIAL: IU's adherence to the Clery Act needs to be stronger



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IU has a mass communication system called IU-Notify that is meant to alert the IU community when there are immediate dangers. IDS file photo Buy Photos

Students like to be informed about what's going on at IU. It's the entire reason the Indiana Daily Student exists. So what if a serious crime was committed this weekend? We may not know about it until the next business day.

IU has a mass communication system called IU-Notify that is meant to alert the IU community when there are immediate dangers or Clery Act reportable crimes. However, it does not adequately address threats for reasons of consistency and specificity.

It was recently used following a strong-arm robbery in the 2500 block of East 10th Street, just outside of IU’s Central neighborhood. 

This section of campus not only contains four residence halls and Union Street Center, but it is also adjacent to the densely populated Green Acres neighborhood and Campus View apartments. 

Students were not emailed until two days after the incident occurred. On its face, it would appear that this is a violation of some sort, but it is within the confines of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, which requires information surrounding crimes that meet its criteria to be reported on the first business day after the crime occurred.

The Clery Act requires that campus officials discuss whether an emergency announcement is sent out, and the timeliness of said warnings. The emergency notification requirement, which was added in 2008 to the Clery Act, would ensure that in situations with an ongoing threat, relevant parties would be advised of it. 

There have been multiple instances where IU's baseline compliance has misinformed the individuals it seeks to protect. One memorable occurrence came with no injuries and little elaboration when worried students were left in the dark. 

In October 2018, Students were warned of a “dangerous situation” occurring near East 10th and North Walnut Grove streets without learning the relevant information about the event, which happened to be an underground explosion with no injuries.

It's possible that IU quieted transparency with students because an “explosion” doesn’t sound great, especially when worried parents are alerted. That, or IU simply didn't have the jurisdiction within the confines of the Clery Act to share more information.

The university allows guardians to modify how they receive emergency notifications through their students' online IU portals, allowing parents to feel more in control over the health and safety of their children. It almost feels as though IU Notify is too busy selling itself to better meet the needs of students. 

The agency granted to universities under these circumstances is far too broad to keep them completely transparent, and it has caused issues before.

The University of Montana was fined $996,614, which was later reduced, for misleading crime statistics from 2012-2015. Virginia Tech was fined a total of $32,500 following a failure to sufficiently inform students during the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, a decision which was later reversed on appeal. If IU wants to avoid similar results, they must take more steps to modify their procedures in response to crimes.

IU either neglects to address crimes that merit more attention or clouds the actuality of events to the point that no one benefits from the warning. Real change has to occur before someone seriously suffers due to strict adherence to the bare-minimum. 

The university must address the specificity and consistency of these notifications, so students can be better informed of possible threats.

It is much more difficult of a process to change the language of the act itself, which is why IU needs to take additional steps in protecting its students on a campus-wide level.

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