Using data from a victimization study of just over 3,400 college students, this study examined whether the statistics required under the Federal Student Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act of 1990 provide an accurate portrait of on-campus crime.
In the late 1980's, celebrated victimizations of college students and grassroots efforts of victims and their families prompted Congress to pass the Student Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act of 1990, which requires postsecondary institutions to disseminate crime statistics annually for their campuses. A key assumption of the act was that the policies it mandated would produce valid and reliable statistics concerning on-campus crime. To test the effectiveness of the act in achieving this intent, this study examined bounded, incident-level information collected during the 1993-94 academic year on the victimization experiences of a random sample of more than 3,400 college and university students nationwide. Findings show that larceny/theft, threats, harassment, and vandalism were the most common victimizations suffered by students during the 6-month bounding period; none of these offenses, however, is among the crimes for which the act requires statistics to be compiled. Furthermore, the statistical information is flawed due to serious underreporting; students reported less than one-fourth of all on-campus victimizations to any authority. For some violent crimes, such as rape, sexual assault, and robbery, students' reporting rates were smaller, i.e., nearly one-fifth of all on-campus victimizations. Thus, the statistics generated by the act overemphasize the seriousness of crimes on college campuses, because they mandate the collection of statistics on crimes of high concern and underestimate the volume of on-campus crime because of the exclusion of certain offenses and victim unwillingness to report on-campus crime to campus authorities. 4 tables, 3 notes, and 30 references
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Earlier versions of this article were presented at the 1995 annual meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, Boston, and at the 1995 annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology, Boston.