W.Va. college faces record $250,000 fine for violations of the Clery Act

WEST VIRGINIA — Salem International University,formerly Salem-Teikyo University, is facing the highest fines ever levied fornot complying with a federal law that requires universities to discloseinformation about crimes committed on campus. A U.S. Department ofEducation investigation found that, among other things, Salem InternationalUniversity failed to report numerous campus crimes between 1997 and 1999,including five forcible sex offenses, three robberies and failed to issue timelyreports about threats on campus. The Clery Act requires all colleges anduniversities to keep and maintain crime logs and annually report crimestatistics.The fine stands at $250,000, recently reduced from anoriginal proposal of $385,000. According to Security on Campus, a campus crimewatchdog group, the $385,000 fine comprised 14 separate fines of $27,500, themaximum fine for one violation of the Clery Act.Richard Baxter, SIU vicepresident of university advancement, said he sees the fine’s reduction asan endorsement of SUI’s efforts to become compliant with theact.“We’ve responded very aggressively to all of theoriginal allegations and charges against the university,” Baxtersaid.The university plans to appeal before the June 14 deadline, citingundisclosed DOE “errors or misinterpretations in the statute,”Baxter said.He added the fine should get the attention of otheruniversities.“It sends a signal that you must take this particularact and others very seriously,” Baxter said.S. Daniel Carter,Security on Campus senior vice president, said that even if the fine is reducedon appeal, it would be the “first significant” fine imposed forviolations of the Clery Act. “Schools are being put on noticethat it will cost them more to be dishonest about their crime information thanto be honest about it, and provide students, especially student journalists,information about crime on campus,” Carter said. Mount St. ClareCollege in Clinton, Iowa, is the only other institution fined since the CleryAct’s 1990 inception. The school was ordered to pay $15,000 in 2000. In2002 Mount St. Clare College became the Franciscan University.Carterurges student journalists who believe their campus police may be in violation ofthe Clery Act to contact their DOE regional office, Security on Campus or theStudent Press Law Center.

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