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March 24, 2014

Darden College's Dennis Gregory Helping Develop New Regulations for Clery Act

By Steve Daniel

Dennis Gregory, associate professor of higher education in Old Dominion's Darden College of Education, is currently serving as a member of a U.S. Department of Education negotiated rule-making committee, which is developing new regulations for the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act).

The Clery Act requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses. The law is tied to an institution's participation in federal student financial aid programs and it applies to most institutions of higher education, both public and private. The act is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education.

The committee Gregory serves on includes representatives of organizations or groups with interests that are significantly affected by the subject matter of the proposed regulations.

Gregory has attended several meetings in Washington, D.C., since late January, and will be back in the nation's capital at the end of this month for two more days of meetings.

The work of his committee is part of an ongoing federal initiative that gained traction last March when President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 into law.

"This has been made even more important by President Obama's initiative against sexual assault on campus and the task force he established. He called for our rules to be out by Nov. 1," Gregory said.

The committee Gregory serves on has been charged with proposing regulations for carrying out new campus-crime reporting requirements included in the reauthorized act. The act incorporates the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, which "seeks to address the violence women face on campus: the highest rates of stalking, the highest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence, and 20-25 percent of female students experiencing rape or attempted rape," according to the Clery Center for Security on Campus.

In developing its proposed regulations, the committee is considering everything from refining to adding definitions, such as what constitutes the geography of a campus, as regards cyberstalking, or what dating violence entails. The committee operates by consensus, meaning that all members must be in agreement on any proposals it puts forth.

Gregory serves on three subcommittees of the negotiated rule-making committee, including one that is looking at new regulations involving stalking - for example, how to determine and report separate offenses of cyber stalking. His work on the education subcommittee, he notes, dovetails nicely with his involvement in a $300,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant ODU received last year to fund a Gender-Based Violence Prevention Project on campus.

The award, from the DOJ's Office on Violence Against Women, provides resources to strengthen the education and violence prevention services of the Women's Center's Sexual Assault Free Environment program (SAFE). The project aims to engage all students through diverse modes of delivery, including an online education module for orientation, and training workshops for student groups and organizations.

"Having studied and completed research on the threats existing on and around a university campus, we know that gender-based violence and related hazards are among the chief concerns about which education and prevention are critical. We are excited to have the opportunity to educate and help keep ODU students safer," said Gregory, who is serving as principal investigator of the grant.

He noted that the project focuses on men and women as leaders to model positive behavior to prevent sexual violence by using the bystander education model. "It's important that we focus efforts toward educating bystanders on the role they can play in helping prevent sexual violence," he said.

Gregory said the Clery Act is "an evolving piece of legislation" and that he was pleased to be appointed to a committee involved in the process of making it better and more relevant. However, he has some concerns about what he sees as a deficiency in the act: that in its reporting of "raw numbers," it doesn't truly tell whether a campus is safe or unsafe.

"The act doesn't take into account the impact on the community," Gregory said. "For instance, two aggravated assaults at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus, which houses 52,000 students, has quite a different impact than if those two assaults happen at Ferrum College in Virginia, where there are just over a thousand students. Also, the number of reported crimes may well mean that people feel more comfortable reporting crimes to police because they feel heard and protected. Thus, if sexual assault numbers in the Clery report increase, this does not mean the campus is less safe."

Here at ODU, Gregory believes the Women's Center has taken great strides to educate the campus community about the need to increase the reporting of crimes, thanks to the work of its Sexual Assault Resource Team and the DOJ grant-funded training.

"While any crime on and around campus is too much, ODU's administration and police department have made great efforts to make the campus safer. Education is what we do best, so the mandatory education requirements of our grant and the new requirements in Clery support our ongoing efforts to make ODU a safe place to work and study," Gregory said.

A member of the ODU faculty since 2000, Gregory conducts research on campus crime and safety issues, student conduct systems, academic integrity, Greek life, residence life and student affairs around the world. He worked for 25 years in student affairs before becoming a faculty member.