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The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (the Clery Act) is federal policy aimed at creating safer college campuses. It attempts to provide students with statistics on crimes that occur on campus and inform them of the security policies and various resources available to them. The Clery Act also mandates that institutions of higher education (IHE) send out alerts of emergencies that occur on campus.
So how safe do Western Michigan University (WMU or “Western”) students feel on campus? This study attempted to answer this question by asking students through a survey. The students’ responses were quite positive; they do feel safe on campus. However, they feel less safe walking on campus at night, women in particular.
Students really do not know about the Clery Act. Further, they cannot describe it comprehensively when asked an open-ended question about it. However, they recognize various components of the Clery Act; for example, about half of students knew that WMU had to keep crime statistics, though few had actually looked at the crime statistics. The vast majority of students are signed up for the WMU alert system. Most believe the alert system is effective. Responses were about evenly split when students were asked if information about safety was easy to find on WMU’s website.
The shootings of February 20, 2016, the event known as the Uber Shooting, shed light on weakness of the Clery Act. The safety alerts are only mandatory when crimes, or other emergencies, occur on campus, within the geographical parameters defined by the Clery Act. The shooting occurred down a road that boarders WMU’s campus. The shooter was loose in the community for several hours. However, neither of these elements mandate an alert to be sent out. WMU did not send out an alert of this emergency. The students on WMU’s campus were deeply disturbed by this.
Almost two years later, do WMU students feel that WMU protects their safety? Do they want to be notified of emergencies unfolding in the areas surrounding campus? How confident are they in WMU’s interest in keeping them safe? Barely a majority of students feel safe in the areas around campus. This leaves a significant number of students who do not feel safe in these areas. Almost all believe that WMU should send out alerts of emergencies that occur in these areas. When asked specifically about the night of the Uber Shooting, students almost completely agreed that WMU should have sent out an alert. Students were divided on whether WMU did its best to protect their safety the night of the Uber Shooting, with almost half of them, quite a large number, unsatisfied with WMU’s protection.
Sidwell, Amanda, "Do students feel safe on campus? A Policy Evaluation of the Clery Act" (2018). Honors Theses. 3020.
Honors Thesis-Open Access