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What is the Clery Act?

The federal Clery Act was passed in 1990 and named after a Lehigh University student who was murdered in her dorm room in 1986. It is intended to protect students by forcing schools to be transparent about campus crime.

Under the act, college administrators must report all serious criminal allegations made to them “in good faith” – i.e., based on more than rumor – to a designated campus official. That official is then required to submit a tally of the allegations to the federal Department of Education. The department publishes statistics each year for every school in the country that receives federal financial aid – essentially all of them.


The act also requires schools to keep thorough crime records and to show them openly. It does not require administrators to report allegations to local police, although they must offer to help victims do so.

For much of the past two decades, some schools have either ignored the Clery Act or reported artificially low statistics. But violations related to recent high-profile crimes – such as last year’s Penn State child-molestation case and the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre – have brought the act more prominence.

In the past seven years, the education department has stepped up enforcement. Typically, it has punished schools with fines of up to $27,500 per violation. In theory, schools can also lose access to federal financial aid, although no college has ever been punished that seriously.

Several Clery experts told the Globe that the list of potential Clery Act violations at Roxbury Community College is unusually long.