By: Debra Gersh-Hernandez
IF YOU WANT to know why campus crime statistics are important, ask the Clery and Mix families.
Ten years ago, Jeanne Clery opted to attend Lehigh University rather than her first choice, Tulane, after hearing about a violent rape there a few years earlier. But at Lehigh, Clery was beaten, raped and killed by a fellow student.
Lehigh “seemed safe and showed no record of a violent crime problem,” said her mother, Connie Clery, who, with her husband, Howard, founded Security on Campus Inc., a nonprofit organization fighting for the release of such records.
Wearing a button bearing her daughter’s picture, Clery told reporters that during the trial, her family became “horrified and angered by the type of crime information that Lehigh administrators had suppressed.”
College administrators call her efforts to open up campus crime reports a “witch hunt,” she said, adding, “They would like you to believe that the alarming number of drinking- and drug-related rapes, assaults, murders and deaths is under control and really none of our business.”
Ten years after Jeanne Clery’s murder, however, administrators “continue to exploit every loophole and weakness that isn’t specifically enumerated by law,” she charged. “We need the basic system of checks and balances on college campuses that any other American community has for public safety. We need open campus police logs.”
Jeanne’s brother, Ben, said he thought that the Campus Security Act would fulfill reporting requirements “that are only fair to the public,” but that “back door” information received by Security on Campus indicates universities are grossly under-reporting crime.
Addie Mix knows all too well how campus officials try to hide crime. A year after her son, James, was murdered at Huston-Tillotson College in Austin ? chosen specifically because the family believed the small, Christian college was safe ? the university disclosed information showing there had been no deaths the year before.
“How different my life would be today if this important law had been enforced,” she said.
“Our innocent, young children are being sent into war zones every year with no means of protection. It is not right.”
When Addie Mix asked about a brochure reporting no campus crime, she was assured that there were no deaths, and when she identified herself, that the lapse was an oversight.
The incident illustrated that school administrators are “more concerned about the image of their college than the safety of their students,” she said, adding that colleges and universities “must be made accountable. The public must be fully informed about what’s going on.”