Former student says Ind. university withheld campus crime records

INDIANA—- A former Taylor University student has filed a complaintagainst the school, claiming that the university has failed to comply with thestate’s public-records laws.Justin McLaughlin, a former studentjournalist who graduated from the private Evangelical Christian university inUpland less than a year ago, filed the complaint with the statepublic-access counselor after he was denied access to Taylor’s campus policereports.McLauglin requested the records while researching a series ofcrimes at the university, including the theft of expensive camera equipment fromthe Communications Department last spring.”These crimes have goneunsolved and are generally unknown to the student population at large; they areparticularly unknown to prospective students,” McLauglin said.Theuniversity’s crime statistics report shows that there has not been a singlecrime on campus in the last three years, except for two liquor-law arrests andfive liquor-law judiciary referrals, almost half of which were committed bynonstudents who wandered onto campus.Michael Blickman, TaylorUniversity’s general counsel, said he could not comment on the school’sopen-records policies but said Taylor has “provided a lot of information” toMcLaughlin.”The university is not a police department,” Blickmansaid.Michael Row, chief of campus safety at Taylor University, alsodeclined to comment on the university’s access policies and deferred to theschool’s Web site.The Web site covers the university’s agreement todisclose crime statistics but does not mention any university policy concerningpublic access to campus police reports.McLaughlin’s complaint resembles apending lawsuit against Harvard University. The Crimson, Harvard’sstudent newspaper, sued the university last July after it was denied access tocampus police records. The Crimson is arguing that campus police, even ata private university, must abide by the same open-records laws as any otherpolice force if the state police have deputized the campusofficers.McLaughlin makes the same point in his complaint.”They[the campus police] have the right to arrest —- to take away aperson’s liberty and freedom but they then say the public has no right tooversight of their operations because they are a private entity,” McLaughlinwrote.”Under a state’s open-records laws, campus police — eventhose at private schools — who have been given ‘law enforcement authority’should be required to disclose police records to the public, subject to specificstatutory exemptions,” said Mike Hiestand, an attorney and legal consultant tothe Student Press Law Center.According to Taylor University’s campussecurity brochure, Taylor’s “law enforcement officers of the Department ofCampus Safety have full law enforcement authority on all property owned orcontrolled by the university.” Concerned with the school’s accesspolicies, Security on Campus Inc., a nonprofit campus safety watchdog, has alsoquestioned the university but is yet to receive a response.”It is stillunclear to us whether Indiana has a special statute [for private schools] butmost states would say campus police have to comply with the same public-recordslaws as other sworn in officers,” said S. Daniel Carter, senior vice presidentof Security on Campus Inc.Carter, who surveys campus safety atuniversities nationwide, said schools often do not disclose sufficient campuscrime information in order to maintain a good reputation.

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