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A bill that would place Massachusetts college and university police logs under the same regulations as the state's Police Blotter Law is expected to glide easily through the House and Senate within the next month, lobbyists said last week.
The Joint Committee of the Judiciary approved the bill last Wednesday after a hearing which saw none of the bill's threatened opposition materialize.
In an executive session, the committee gave a favorable report to the measure, which would amend the Police Blotter Law. The amendment, which would force college and university police to compile daily logs and leave them open to the public, was said to have had the strong support of state Rep. Sal DiMasi (D-Boston), House chair of the committee.
Several lobbying groups had voiced opposition to the bill before the initial hearing, but none spoke up at the hearing.
The bill comes on the heels of a recent decision in the Missouri courts which maintained that the student press had a legal right to a school's criminal records, as they do not fall under the protective heading of "educational records."
John Doherty, a spokesperson for the non-profit lobbying group Security on Campus, expressed confidence that the bill would pass.
"In the process of a bill, this is the single most important step," said Doherty, whose group spoke out in favor of the bill. "It bodes very well for the chances of this legislation being enacted into law."
Joshua A. Gerstein '91, a former, senior editor of The Crimson who co-authored the bill, said that a negative vote by the committee would have severely handicapped the measure for final passage.
Roger Sullivan, vice president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Massachusetts (AICUM), said he felt uneasy about the bill. He said that he felt the bill was premature, and instead advocated change on a national level.
"We would like to see clarification on the federal level," said Sullivan, adding, "We think this is most appropriately resolved at that level."
Sullivan said he wished to see the various offices of government "on the same wavelength."
He also questioned the need for such a bill. "Regardless of legislation, it probably won't change what colleges do," Sullivan said. And Sullivan predicted a rash of legal problems involving the release of students' names.
Responding to Sullivan's contentions, Doherty said that there were no legitimate objections to the bill.
"As we push pro-actively for this kind of legislation to make colleges safer, we are monitoring AICUM...we will try to show that their objections are baseless."
At the same time, Doherty said he was "thrilled" that groups opposing the measure were not voicing their objections publicly. He added that he doesn't expect any representatives or senators to dissent as the bill heads to the House and Senate before making its way to the desk of Gov. William F. Weld '66 for final approval.
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