Under the Clery Act, institutions must disclose crime statistics reported on their Clery geography, which includes on-campus property, on-campus student housing facilities (if applicable), noncampus buildings or property, and public property. Whether the property at issue is “reasonably contiguous” to the campus can be the determinative factor when choosing between an on-campus property designation or a noncampus building or property designation. The 2016 edition of The Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting (“Clery Handbook”) provides new and additional information about what it means for a piece of property to be “reasonably contiguous” to the campus with its discussion of the “one-mile rule.”
The more utilized of the two definitions for on-campus property is as follows:
Any building or property owned or controlled by an institution within the same reasonably contiguous geographic area and used by the institution in direct support of, or in a manner related to, the institution’s educational purposes, including residence halls.
Contrast this with the more utilized of the two definitions for non-campus buildings or property:
Any building or property owned or controlled by an institution that is used in direct support of, or in relation to, the institution’s educational purposes, is frequently used by students, and is not within the same reasonably contiguous geographic area of the institution.
In both, the term “reasonably contiguous” is important. Pages 2-3 and 2-4 of the Clery Handbook have a discussion of “reasonably contiguous,” including the following statement:
Generally speaking, it is reasonable to consider locations within one mile of your campus border to be reasonably contiguous with your campus. However, this determination must be made on a case by case basis taking into consideration the circumstances of the campus and the location. A location that is within one mile of campus but separated by a river or six-lane highway might not be considered contiguous unless a pedestrian bridge or tunnel connects the two sides. If you exclude from the definition of campus for Clery Act purposes a building or property your institution owns or controls that is within one mile of your campus you must be able to explain the basis for this decision.
In sum, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will generally consider any property within one-mile of your campus to be reasonably contiguous. However, if the institution decides otherwise after its analysis of the property, it will need to be prepared to justify this decision.
Why does this even matter? In many cases the distinction may simply be determining whether a particular crime statistic should be disclosed as having occurred on property categorized as on-campus or noncampus buildings or property. However, the effects could be more significant in other scenarios. For example, assume an institution leases an apartment complex from a third party at a location that is about one mile from campus, and this apartment complex is the only student housing offered by the institution. If the determination is made that this apartment complex is non-campus property, the institution would only need to disclose crime statistics occurring on that property (in the units covered by the leasing agreement and common areas). However, if the determination is made that the apartment complex is on-campus property, several other Clery compliance obligations related to institutions with on-campus student housing facilities are triggered, including publishing an annual fire safety report with fire statistics and statements related to fire safety policies, procedures, and programming.
What this means for you
If your institution has property that is around one mile away from your campus, consider double-checking its Clery geography designation to ensure you feel comfortable with it in light of the guidance related to the one-mile rule. If you are using a noncampus designation for such property, it would be wise to figure out what justification you would use for this designation ahead of time rather than waiting until ED has notified your institution of a program review.