By Alison Kiss · May 16, 2017
Historically, college and university administrators and the public often perceived campus public safety as solely responsible for Clery Act compliance. While public safety may play a central role in executing specific requirements, Clery Act requirements span across a number of different departments, including student affairs, counseling, emergency response and many others. As a result, many institutions identified the need for a Clery compliance coordinator — someone who can serve as a cross-departmental ambassador of Clery Act requirements and implementation.
Ideally, a Clery coordinator is a campus leader with access to top-level administrators. While the position can be an integral part of an institution’s effort to meet campus safety requirements, the role should not be viewed as a panacea or “band-aid” for all Clery Act compliance issues. Neither should the role be used to demonstrate to the public an institution’s commitment to safety if not backed by actual support. Until recent years, responsibility for Clery Act compliance frequently fell to one department, and often a single individual. This one-dimensional approach led to burnout, a lack of institutional buy-in, accountability concerns and frustrated efforts.
Rather than simply transferring that singular responsibility to a Clery coordinator, institutions should approach the role as an opportunity to centralize compliance efforts that span across departments and involve numerous individuals on campus. The position should also be designed to solicit support from campus leadership, form a Clery compliance team and help that team successfully navigate institutional campus safety efforts.
When looking to hire a Clery coordinator, administrators often ask the Clery Center what traits they should look for in a candidate. It can be a challenging role to fill as it requires a personality that is simultaneously a big picture thought leader yet detail-oriented enough to help update and implement policies and create change across systems.
With that in mind, here are some elements we find important in relation to the Clery coordinator role:
1. Project management skills:
The Clery Act extends far beyond just compiling statistics for an annual report. It guides institutional policies and procedures for preventing and responding to campus crime, including immediate response to emergencies and long-term support for community members impacted by crime. As a result, the Clery coordinator needs to be able to take the large goal of Clery compliance and break it down into manageable tasks, thereby leading and receiving support from a Clery compliance committee. A few of the skills required include:
- Bringing departments together: The Clery coordinator is charged with bringing different departments together, including both the individuals involved in identifying and reporting crimes (deemed campus security authorities [CSAs] under the act) as well as those regularly responding to incidents.
- Finding campus experts: The Clery coordinator needs the ability to find and connect with their own campus experts by acknowledging their own knowledge gaps and identifying those who have expertise that can supplement or complement the institution’s overall efforts. These are individuals, often (but not always) in leadership roles, who are very familiar with existing policies and procedures and demonstrate a commitment to collaborating to meet specific Clery requirements.
- Navigating silos: Although campus department roles often intersect, an individual’s unique perspective, departmental lens or prior experience can often complicate interdepartmental communication and hinder effective teamwork. Clery coordinators should address this challenge by helping frame each perspective, acknowledging each department’s motivations/interests and working with departments to identify resolutions that satisfy the needs and interests of involved departments while also prioritizing the overarching needs of the campus community. Coordinators need to have communication and conflict management skills to facilitate these resolutions.
- Leading meetings and projects: The Clery coordinator and Clery committee should identify specific goals and tasks that the coordinator will oversee and participate in completing. These goals and tasks include identifying and training CSAs, identifying Clery geography, establishing effective reporting structures at the institution, navigating the intersections of the Clery Act and Title IX in response to campus sexual violence and other crimes, and policy development. Further, the institution must create and disseminate their annual security report (ASR) — a project management task that occurs annually and requires all of the above steps, particularly cross-campus collaboration.
- Developing policies and systems for documentation: A critical part of Clery Act implementation is documentation - establishing systems for when and how the institution will complete certain actions and keeping records of institutional decisions. This helps keep administrators informed, eases departmental transitions, and ultimately provides a basis for response if the institution faces a Clery Act program review by the Department of Education. As a result, the Clery Coordinator should be organized and create effectively documented processes.
2. Clery Act knowledge
Clery coordinators of course need a foundation of Clery Act knowledge, but keep in mind that knowledge of the law will increase during a coordinator’s time in their role. While coordinators should have some Clery Act knowledge and experience, without the core team-building, organizational and communication skills listed above, they may struggle to turn that knowledge into actual systems change. The Clery coordinator needs a good understanding of not only the technicalities of the law, but also its nuances (the underlying policies, documents and structures for effective implementation) and the roles different individuals and departments must play for effective compliance.
3. Access to top-level administrators:
Although not a skill, relationships with those with authority to approve and affect change could be a key factor of creating meaningful change. If the Clery coordinator does not have the authority to make decisions or directly make practical change on the campus and if the role does not receive buy-in (in both spirit and action) from top-level administrators, any coordinator will find it difficult to accomplish even the most basic tasks associated with their role. When hiring for this position, it’s important to hire someone who can succeed within the role, but it is perhaps even more important to ensure that the Clery coordinator will receive the institutional support they need to do so.
Alison Kiss is the executive director of the Clery Center for Security On Campus. At Campus Safety Conference Texas, Campus Safety Conference East and Campus Safety Conference West this summer, the Clery Center will be presenting Creating Your Annual Security Report. Throughout the workshop, participants will analyze their existing ASRs with the guidance of a Clery Center instructor and receive feedback from other participants in order to determine compliance and identify changes they need to make. Participants will leave the session with a concrete action plan for making any necessary updates to their annual security reports. To register, visit CampusSafetyConference.com.