Colleges and universities will be required to release campus crime statistics to the public if Congress approves the Campus Security Bill this week.
The bill, which has already passed through a Congressional committee, is intended to improve college security by giving students, employees and parents specific information about crime at their schools, supporters of the bill said.
Harvard officials said the bill had been greatly improved by the work of Senator Edward M. Kennedy '54-'56 (D-Mass.), who worked with Harvard to make the bill less burdensome to colleges.
"We are satisfied that the legislation is reasonable," said John Shattuck, vice president for government, community and public affairs, who added that the bill will not affect Harvard much.
"Harvard already reports crime statistics and has done so for a number of years," he said. "I don't think people are choosing Harvard for its security record."
But Shattuck also said that he did not believe additional paperwork would help improve security.
Some education specialists said they are worried that statistics may be misleading.
"This legislation may raise more questions than it answers," said David R. Merkowitz, a spokesperson for the American Council on Education. "What do the numbers mean?"
Robert M. Sweeney of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities said the bill may unfairly punish schools in areas with high crime rates, and Merkowitz suggested that schools in urban areas may be put at a disadvantage because of this discrepancy.
"We have no problems with the freedom of the information, as long as it's heavily footnoted or explained," said Sweeney.
He expressed the fear that "they will be aggregated in newspapers and magazines without context."
"People may draw erroneous conclusions. Schools are going to be stigmatized."
Frank Carrington, legal counsel for Security on Campus Inc., the group that lobbied for the bill, agreed that statistics could be misleading but said, "Some statistics are better than no statistics. Because something can be distorted doesn't mean you should rule out doing it."
Carrington added that "colleges are at perfect liberty to qualify and put their own representation of statistics."
The statistics that must be disclosed will include murder, rape, robbery, assault, liquor and drug violations and motor theft.
Passage of the bill would be a triumph for Connie and Howard Clery, founders of Security on Campus, because it would nationalize a law being considered at the state level. The Clerys lobbied for the federal crime bill following the rape and murder of their daughter at Lehigh University in 1986.