INDIANA ‘ In a report that further clarifies a college’s obligation to maintain campus police logs under federal law, the U.S. Department of Education found St. Mary’s College in violation of federal campus security reporting requirements.
While the May 28 report found that the private women’s college in Notre Dame had taken steps to improve its reporting and had ‘not substantively misrepresented the crime statistics that it has reported,’ it cited the institution for nearly 10 years of noncompliance with the Clery Act.
The report may have an affect on crime reporting beyond the St. Mary’s campus. In citing five areas of noncompliance, the department set a precedent by clarifying the expectation that reports submitted to a campus police or security department for inclusion in the annual report’s crime statistics must also be included in the school’s public campus security department crime log required by another provision in the act. These reports include anonymous reports of crimes forwarded by the campus counseling center.
‘This position hadn’t, so far as we know, been clearly articulated previously,’ said Daniel Carter, senior vice president of Security on Campus, the nonprofit organization that filed the original complaint with the DOE in May 2001.
‘Although this finding doesn’t directly address nonanonymous reports, such as surveys conducted of reporting campus authorities like student judicial administrators after the conclusion of a calendar year, it may also indicate that these types of reports will also have to be included in the public crime log,’ Carter said.
Carter said he is concerned, however, that this policy may actually allow schools a loophole to withhold their crime reports in the future by altering their reporting guidelines in order to exclude them from the Clery Act’s jurisdiction.
‘This may have an unintended consequence of giving schools a disincentive to either permit these anonymous reports, or to have someone other than the police or security department compile the annual statistics,’ Carter cautioned.
At St. Mary’s, the DOE also found that crime statistics were not accurately disclosed, that improper crime categories were used, that the geographical breakdown of crime statistics was not reported, that the annual reports lacked required security policy disclosures.
The December investigation was prompted by a complaint by Security on Campus after published reports about mishandled sexual offenses at the university. College spokeswoman Melanie Engler said administrators avoided a possible $35,000 fine and suspension of federal funding by fully complying with the Clery Act in 2001.