Signed bill is step in a safer direction

By Vickie Snow

When high school kids check into colleges, they generally look at quality, cost and location. They figure they’ll be happy somewhere affordable, not too far (or far enough) away and where there is a good program in their area of study.

But happiness also comes from feeling safe. Thanks to a recently-signed bill, high school students and anyone else can see a college’s safety record.

About two weeks ago, President Bush signed the Students’ Right to Know Act of 1990. The law requires universities to give information on campus crime to anyone who asks, including crimes like burglary, theft, aggravated assault, rape and murder.

This law could make a big difference in a kid’s life. Say he’s dead set on going to some college in Chicago. His parents dig up some crime statistics that alarm them and their son.

Hurray, he changes his mind and goes to a safer university, making his college years more secure and happy. It’s a rosy picture, but feasible.

Parents are worried about their kids leaving the nest and such facts should play an important role in choosing a college.

The Right to Know Act will force all colleges by September 1992 to fork over their crime statistics and reveal their safe or unsafe environment.

Although students can see and hear about what goes on around them, others not in such close contact with colleges need the information in writing.

NIU is ahead of the game and already provides crime statistics. This newspaper is allowed to see daily police reports and is given names and addresses of offenders. Other colleges aren’t so lucky.

A Southwest Missouri State University student is suing a dozen university officials in order to have access to crime reports.

Traci Bauer, the school newspaper’s editor, wants all crime information available, not just bits and pieces. The paper gets weekly reports without “personal identifiable information.”

By having descriptive police beat sections, newspapers can warn students and the community about who to look out for in cases involving sexual assault or exposure.

Spelling out the offender’s name and adress can cause embarrassment, which might deter future crime offenses.

There are a couple shortfalls, though. Universities don’t have to put the information together in an easily-accessible form. They just have to hand it over after someone asks for it.

Lobbyists for the bill hope it will cut down on campus crime. Typically, offenders don’t think about the consequences of their actions and won’t stop to think, “Hey, I’ll be making this college look worse.”

On the other hand, maybe it will lessen the amount of campus crime if university officials enact stronger punishments for offenders so their schools don’t get a bad reputation.

On the whole, President Bush deserves a pat on the back for this one. Signing the Right to Know Act can’t hurt the ever-present campus crime situation and he would have been a fool not to endorse the idea.