We too often hear about campus shootings on the news. But a real danger to college students doesn’t always make national headlines. There’s another crisis – one that the federal government is now trying to address.
Accidents are the leading cause of fatalities on campuses today.
Earlier this month a bill sponsored by Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut was introduced to Congress. The Corey Safety Act, named in memory of Corey Hausman, would require colleges to report serious accidents that occur on campus. The bill was previously proposed last year; a similar bill passed unanimously in Connecticut.
In 2018, first-year student Corey Hausman had been a student at the University of Colorado for only a few weeks before falling off his skateboard and suffering a fatal traumatic brain injury. His parents claimed that the college knew that the pathway Corey fell on was unsafe, essentially creating the conditions that caused his death.
If an accident happens in the same place over and over again, and you have the metrics to show that, then, in a way, it isn’t an accident, it’s a preventable injury.– Nanette Hausman, Corey’s mother, and founder of College911.net, a website to help inform students and parents about campus accidents.
Proponents of this new bill believe that, if passed into law, it will incentivize educational institutions to find ways to make their campuses safer. Currently, the CLERY Act requires schools to collect metrics on incidents of serious campus crime, but accidents are not included in those numbers. The new law would require an annual campus safety report that would compile metrics from schools on accidents.
The federal Jeanne Clery Act’s crime and fire safety data disclosure requirements have profoundly improved the campus safety landscape over the last three decades. Higher education informed by this data has made targeted improvements to campus police and security agencies as well as residence hall access and fire safety. The COREY Safety Act can usher in the same type of lifesaving improvements to prevent serious bodily injury and death from accidents.– S. Daniel Carter, President, Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses, LLC
What are the repercussions of this for colleges? Compelling institutions to do a better job identifying dangers on the grounds seems like another large endeavor added to the list of issues which college administrators have to address.
While schools won’t lose federal funding over dangerous conditions identified in their reports, if this law goes into effect, families of accident victims may be able to use the data on campus conditions for lawsuits. And the dangers identified could go beyond sidewalks to include, for example, dangerous intersections or aging campus structures. Last year, a freshman student was killed on the campus of Lewis & Clark College after a column collapsed on him. The growth in micro transit usage on campus, like scooters, bicycles or ebikes, makes this a challenge for campus safety directors.
We recently wrote about the additional burden new requirements the CLERY Act will place on colleges to better report data on campus assaults. While its aim is commendable, this bill, if signed into law, will undoubtedly add yet another item to the long list of responsibilities borne by college administrators and directors of campus safety.