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Who is a campus security authority – And, how to identify them

Backlash of an inaccurate campus crime report can be frightening. Consider the case of Texas State University – In 2019, it went under scrutiny from Federal authorities for this very reason. Their system in place failed to track and collect correct crime figures

Why do colleges under-report crimes?

A common cause of such an error is the failure to identify the campus security authorities of the college. Most colleges make this mistake. Some consider the campus police or their safety department as the only campus security authority of their college. Some colleges go ahead and appoint the members of their staff for the purpose. Unfortunately, most colleges leave the matter at that. 

Moreover, not all students go to campus police to report crimes. Some are afraid. Some don’t want to report. Others are unsure if they should report the incident or not. And, some go and report the incident to college authorities.  

The result? 

Annual Security Reports don’t show the actual crime rate of the campus. An error that results in insufficient security and safety measures. Under most cases, the error is exposed only after OCR investigators point it out, or worse, after a major incident rocks the campus.   

It’s just not possible to have the correct figures of campus crimes without identifying the campus security authorities of your institution.  

Who is a campus security authority? 

Campus security authority is a Clery specific term. It covers people and organizations responsible for campus safety. And, it covers every person and organization with significant student and campus responsibilities. Every official whom students would want to approach with crime information can be a campus security authority. The person should also have the authority to take decisions.

Common examples include positions such as resident advisors, coaches, athletics directors, staff that oversees student housing, campus police and security staff.

The duty of a campus security authority is to listen to people who approach them with crime information. And, if the information appears to be true, document and report it to college officials assigned for the purpose. 

Every official with the authority to take decisions, and most likely to receive such a complaint can be a campus security authority.   

How to identify a campus security authority? 

Here is the list of staff or organizations that the Clery Act considers as campus security authorities.

  1. Your campus police department or security department. 
  2. People who are responsible for campus security, but aren’t a part of your campus police or security department. This includes people who provide security at college parking, or monitor access into college campus. 
  3. Organizations and individuals appointed by the college as campus security authorities. People to whom students and staff can approach to report crimes. 
  4. People with significant responsibilities and authority on behalf of the college in terms of students and campus activities, such as staff advisors to student councils.

Only those employees who have the authority to take decisions on behalf of the institution can be designated as campus security authorities. Support staff with student responsibilities but no authority, are not campus security authorities, unless they have been appointed by the college for the purpose. 

Consider the following examples: 

  1. Employees who manage student housing, or student center
  2. Staff overseeing extra-curricular activities over and off the campus
  3. Director of athletics 
  4. Faculty advisors to student-groups
  5. Student resident advisor, or a student who monitors access to dormitories.

Besides, there is as such no list of designations who should be considered as campus security authorities. And, there is no specified number either. You could have several individuals and organizations fulfilling this role, or you could have just one. It’s the responsibility of the college to identify the campus security authorities of their college.

The Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting

Who is not a campus security authority?

Although college faculty can be said to have significant student responsibility, if their responsibilities are limited to their classrooms, do not include them in your list of campus security authorities. 

The Clery Act also makes an exception for two groups of individuals. Though, these individuals have significant student responsibility, but shouldn’t be counted as campus security authorities. 

  1. Pastoral counselors, and 
  2. Professional counselors.

Both provide confidential services over the campus, and the law exempts them from the role of a campus security authority. This exemption allows them to deliver counseling to students without having an obligation to report a crime. 

But, this exception applies only if the person is acting in the above-mentioned role when they come across the information. If a pastoral or professional counselor learns of the crime while performing any other role – they will be considered as campus security authorities – and they must report the crime.  

Besides, there are certain situations under which even counselors are obliged to report a crime.

How many campus security authorities should a college have? 

A college can have several campus security authorities. But, if a college has only one person who’s responsible for all student and campus affairs, it may have just one campus security authority too. The number depends on the number of individuals and organizations that are involved in campus security and are significantly responsible for students and campus activities. 

Number of campus security authorities can change during a college year 

The number of campus security authorities can change mid-year too. 

A college employee may become a campus security authority or get removed from the list depending upon the change in responsibilities. A faculty, who wasn’t a CSA in 2019, may become one in 2020 because his responsibilities now include reporting emergency situations over the campus. It’s a good practice to keep a list of campus security authorities with you. 

It could work even better if you let employees take charge of their Clery responsibilities. This feat could be achieved by making their campus security authority designations an official part of their job description. 

Moreover, consider training all your employees on the Clery Act. Such an approach could ensure that all employees remain aware of their obligation to report crimes.

In conclusion

Not all crimes get reported to law enforcement. Not all students file complaints against crimes. Some want to protect the identity of the victim. Some want to protect the perpetrator. And sometimes, students don’t even realize that they have witnessed a crime.

A student resident, or a deal of student affairs is more likely to receive such information. The information may come as a rumor, or may get mentioned during casual conversation. Moreover, if the student is confirmed that the information won’t get them into trouble, they would feel free to report it. 

This is why the role of a campus security authority is central to preparing a reliable campus security report. College administration depends upon their input to understand the true picture of campus crime. It’s an important job. Proper training of your campus security authorities could ensure that your crime reporting system runs smoothly, and gives accurate and timely crime warning.  

If you have any queries about what form your campus security authority training should take, or if you are curious about the variety of ways, you could conduct Clery Act training, please leave a comment in the comment section below. I am sure our readers would be happy to help.

Jessica Holland

Jessica Holland

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