Crime reports probed at 4 schools

The U.S. Department of Education is conducting investigations at four colleges that allegedly failed to properly report crime statistics as required by law.

The DOE visited St. Mary’s College, a women’s school in South Bend, Ind., after Security on Campus, a national watchdog group for campus crime violations, filed a complaint. The investigation included an examination of St. Mary’s procedure in reporting sexual assaults and the requirements for judicial hearings.

Campus visits are routine during investigations, but St. Mary’s case is unique in that administrators claim to have already fixed the problem the complaint addressed. During its December visit, a DOE investigator reviewed documents and spoke with campus officials.

Ball State University, located in Muncie, Ind., has also come under fire from Security on Campus. What started as a questionable incident involving a university police officer’s treatment of a rape victim, has escalated into an investigation of all police activity. Daniel Carter, senior vice president at Security on Campus, wrote in a letter to Ball State police chief Joseph Wehner that the incident ‘may be indicative of larger problems.’

According to DOE crime statistics, Ball State reported one rape on campus in 2000-01. The behavior of campus police might have prompted some victims not to file reports with police at all, Carter said.

Upon a closer look at the Ball State police Web site, Carter noticed 1,500 liquor, drug and weapons violations were missing compared with information reported to the DOE. Ball State claims the error occurred because the dean of students handles these violations instead of the police department.

The university has since acknowledged the problem and created a new Web site to comply with the Clery Act.

Carter is asking the DOE’s San Francisco regional office to investigate reporting procedures at Brigham Young University at Hawaii. A student newspaper article reported police do not maintain a public crime log. Under the federal Clery Act, all public and private institutions are required by law to keep a log available to the public with all reported campus crime. Reporters were told they could be sent the previous week’s log via e-mail.

This is the second year the school has had trouble filing their crime statistics by the Oct. 1 deadline. The figures were made available to students and faculty by e-mail on Nov. 21 ‘ seven weeks late.

The University of Utah is also being questioned after its crime statistics were compared with smaller Westminster College. Westminster reported more alcohol violations than Utah, but while Westminster had a large amount of disciplinary referrals, Utah reported zero for the past three years.

Carter submitted a complaint to Utah campus safety chief Ben Lemmon, along with DOE officials, questioning the campus safety department’s ability to obtain information handled by other campus officials. Utah’s report to the DOE did not describe the way the information was compiled and gave no indication that other campus offices contributed information to the report.