In a determined fight for strengthened campus security, Constance and Howard Clery transformed grief over their daughter's brutal murder in her Lehigh University dormitory room into a bittersweet victory.
President Bush will soon sign legislation, drafted at the Clery's urging, requiring all colleges and universities receiving federal aid to provide campus crime statistics to students and campus employees annually and to prospective students upon request."It's a great relief. Now we know our daughter's life was not in vain and that her tragedy is sparing other victims in this country of the terrible agony that never ends when you are a victim of mental or physical violence," Constance Clery said in a telephone interview from Security on Campus Inc. in Gulph Mills, Pa., near Philadelphia.
The Clerys organized the group to help victims cope with college campus crime after their daughter, Jeanne, was robbed, raped, slashed and suffocated in her dorm room April 5, 1986, by a fellow student.
The couple discovered during the murder trial the "horrifying" extent of violent crime occurring on seemingly quiet campuses across the country.
The group has been successful in getting 11 states to pass laws requiring colleges and universities in the state to report crime statistics.
The bill that just cleared Congress will require all colleges and universities receiving federal assistance to tally statistics on murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, liquor law violations, drug abuse violations and weapons possession violations. No tally, no federal aid. The Education Department will compile the information.
The bill also requires reporting of graduation rates, the rate at which graduates enter the labor market in fields for which they were trained, and the school's revenue from and spending for athletic activities.
Rep. William Goodling, R-Pa., chief sponsor of the bill, said he hopes the crime information will help students make wise choices to avoid becoming a statistic.
"We hope this will drive colleges and universities into providing better security, because now the statistics will be out in the open and there will be no place to hide," he said.
Clery said if Jeanne had known about the prevalence of crime at her school, "she would not have left her door open. These colleges that look safe are not safe, and it doesn't matter if it is a surburban, rural or urban campus."
But some educational associations expressed reservations about the bill's eventual impact.
Gay Clyburn, spokeswoman for the National Association of State Colleges and Universities, said the data could be misleading, contending a reported crime might have occurred near or off campus.
"It may give people an inaccurate view of the safety on a campus," Clyburn said.
And Victor Milani, a criminal law professor at Bay Path College near Springfield, Mass., has spoken out vociferously against the measure. He thinks it may discourage schools from prosecuting minor crimes to keep their public image intact.