The United States Senate just sent to the President a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which included a provision authored by U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., creating a higher education disaster loan program. The Landrieu language will allow colleges and universities devastated by a disaster to access low-interest, long-term loans to rebuild from the Department of Education. The provision is retroactive for schools affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The legislation, which Bush is expected to sign into law, will also provide grants for security systems and specifically mass notification systems.
One organization which lobbied for the security grants was Security On Campus, Inc. (SOC), the nation's leading non-profit advocacy organization for safer college and university campuses. It applauded passage of legislation that will require colleges to "immediately notify" their students and employees when an emergency, such as an active shooter situation, happens on campus.
"As recent incidents have demonstrated, minutes can mean the difference between life and death," said Jonathan Kassa, SOC's Executive Director. "We called on Congress to strengthen provisions for warning campuses and are very pleased that immediate warnings during life-threatening emergencies will be required. This helps ensure that information is communicated, empowering students and employees so that they can take steps to protect themselves during a crisis."
The Act also includes provisions strengthening the campus crime reporting provisions of the Student Right to Know and Campus Security Act, passed years ago. The new provisions establish fire safety reporting requirements for student housing on campus while giving the victims of violent crime the right to know the outcome of student disciplinary action in their cases, and establishing a grant program to improve the emergency notification and security capabilities of colleges.
Security On Campus, Inc. (SOC) was founded in 1987 by Jeanne Clery's parents Connie & Howard after she was raped and murdered in her on-campus residence hall at college, by a fellow student whom she didn't know. SOC worked to secure passage of the Jeanne Clery Act, originally known as the Campus Security Act, in 1990 and continues to be the nation's leading voice for the improvement of campus safety. SOC is headquartered in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.