College settles with DOE over Clery Act violations

WEST VIRGINIA — Although it is too early to say if April’s record-setting fine against Salem International University for Clery Act violations will discourage future violations of federal crime reporting requirements at the nation’s universities, one expert says the record fine should serve as a wake-up call.

In April, Salem agreed to pay a $200,000 fine to the U.S. Department of Education for Clery Act violations that occurred from 1997 to 1999. These violations included the failure to report five forcible sex offenses and three robberies, and the failure to issue timely reports about threats on campus.

”For almost 15 years there was virtually no penalty for not complying with the Clery Act,” said Daniel Carter, senior vice president of Security on Campus, a non-profit agency that monitors Clery Act compliance. ”This puts teeth in it.”

But Carter said it is too early to make any definitive statements about the impact of the fine.

”No new annual security reports have been due since the fine was issued,” he said. ”We’ve not really had a chance to see firsthand what impact it’s had.”

Jeffery Handler, special assistant to Salem’s president, said the for-profit school was fined for a previous owner’s failure to report certain statistics. He said he hopes others across the country will learn from Salem’s record-setting fine.

”We, again, fully hope that this fine serves the right purposes in encouraging campuses around the country to take very, very seriously student safety,” Handler said.

Salem had faced a fine of $250,000, handed down by the Department of Education in May 2004, but it appealed.

The Salem fine marked just the second such penalty for Clery Act violations. The act, passed in 1990, requires colleges and universities to report to the Department of Education statistics about crimes on and around their campuses. The only other school to pay a fine for violating the act was Mount St. Clare College in Clinton, Iowa. That school was fined $15,000 in 2000.

Mount St. Clare College became Franciscan University in 2002.