- Fraternity Pledge's Family Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit
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- Recent Developments with Campus Security Authorities
- Lawsuits Filed Following UVA Article Retraction
- Are Schools Abusing Interim Suspensions?
Newsletter > November 2015 > "Recent Developments with Campus Security Authorities"
Recent Developments with Campus Security Authorities
Tim Burke, Manley Burke, email@example.com
The Clery Act, which has now been in place for some 25 years, requires colleges and universities to track the incidents of certain crimes on and near campuses. It also requires that that data be publicly available and that the campus have in place a method of alerting the campus when a dangerous situation exists.
As a part of complying with Clery, Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) are required to, among other things, designate those individuals on campus who are campus security authorities (CSAs), who have the responsibility to report knowledge of crimes. Generally, campus security authorities are employees of the university with authority to act on behalf of the institution. They include university police and security officials, officials of the institution who have significant responsibility for student and campus activity and the authority and the duty to take action or respond on behalf of the institution. In addition, CSAs may include any individual or organization specified in an institution’s statement of campus security policy as an individual or organization to which students and employees should report criminal offenses.
It is that last category of CSAs under which a few universities have designated or are considering designating volunteer chapter advisors of fraternities and sororities as campus security authorities.
There is no legal requirement for colleges and universities to name chapter advisors as CSAs. William E. Thro, General Counsel for the University of Kentucky, acknowledged that the University was “not legally required to designate house directors and chapter advisors as campus security authorities (CSAs), the University is not legally prohibited from doing so.” That appears to be an accurate statement of the law.
Both the North American Interfraternity Conference and the National Panhellenic Conference have voiced their opposition to such designations. The Fair Campus Act, which is pending in Congress with the continued support of NPC and NIC, would prohibit such designations.
There are good reasons for chapter advisors not to be campus security authorities. First, it is difficult enough to recruit and retain volunteers as chapter advisors. Requiring them to act at the direction of the university to report knowledge of crimes may well be perceived as going beyond what they have volunteered to do. In a few instances, Greek organizations have already reported losing or having difficulty retaining chapter advisors where universities have dictated they must serve as campus security authorities and are required to attend the training to learn how to fulfill that role. Chapter advisors serve a valuable function for both Greek groups and the universities where chapters are located. It is not unreasonable to expect that universities would recognize it is not wise to make the jobs of volunteer chapter advisors more difficult or discourage them from continuing in those roles.
Designating chapter advisors as campus security authorities also has the potential to change the nature of the relationship between a chapter advisor and members of the chapter. A good chapter advisor may well have confidential discussions with members of the chapter. They may become mentors. Members of the chapter may come to them asking for confidential advice. If the chapter members come to believe that they cannot have confidential discussions with chapter advisors, it will make their relationship more difficult.
Finally, there is at least the potential for liability to be imposed on a campus security authority for reporting information about a crime. That is the case even though the required Clery Act reporting only means reporting when a crime occurred, when the campus security authority learned the crime occurred, what the crime was and where it occurred. It does not include naming who the perpetrator was or the victim.
Penn State was perhaps the first large university to require chapter advisors to serve as campus security authorities. When advising chapter advisors of that requirement, university officials made it clear that they recognized there may be a concern about potential liability and promised to “indemnify” volunteers acting as chapter advisors. More recently, both the University of Kentucky and the University of Cincinnati have acknowledged that chapter advisors acting within the scope of their duties as required by the University as campus security authorities would be covered by the University’s insurance.
If legislation does not solve the problem and Greek groups are unable to convince colleges and universities not to declare chapter advisors to be CSAs, fraternal organizations should insist on confirmation in writing that fraternity volunteers acting as the school’s CSAs are covered under the school’s insurance policies. In short, perhaps it is time to turn the tables and ask universities for certificates of insurance.