N.Y. college must pay $20,000 in settlement over discrepancies in campus crime statistics

NEW YORK — A private New York college will have to pay thestate $20,000 as well as reform its crime reporting policies as part of asettlement made with the state attorney general’s office on June 12.

The settlement details the steps that Dominican College, in Orangeburg,N.Y., must take to reform campus safety, which include requiring all employeesresponsible for campus security to attend a training program on crimereporting issues, and designating officials to oversee crime reporting andensure that grievance procedures are in place for students.

The settlement follows on the heels of an investigation by New YorkAttorney General Andrew Cuomo into claims that Dominican had been falselyreporting crime statistics, a violation of the Jeanne Clery Act.

The Clery Act is a federal law that requires schools that receive federalfinancial aid to make information available about crime on, or in some casesnear, their campus.

Included in the settlement were findings by Cuomo’s office identifyingthree consecutive school years where the crime statistics published in thestudent handbook did not match records filed with the Department ofEducation.

As part of the settlement, the college did not confirm or deny thefindings.

“When a college underreports crime statistics they put their studentsat risk,” said Cuomo in a press release.

Jonathan Kassa, executive director for the organization Security on Campus,said that when a school fails to accurately report crime, there is cause forconcern.

“If you’re not reporting those statistics properly, I would seriouslyquestion the college’s commitment (to student safety),” said Kassa.

Cuomo’s investigation began in 2008 when his office received allegationsthat the college was falsely reporting crime statistics, particularly sexualassaults that happened on campus. The allegations came from Attorney GloriaAllred, who is representing the mother of Megan Wright in a civil suit againstthe college. Wright, a Dominican student, committed suicide in 2006 after theinvestigation into her alleged gang rape was stalled and no arrests weremade.

Cuomo’s office also sent a letter to all New York colleges and universitiesreminding them that falsely reporting crime statistics is a federal crime andurging schools to review their practices regarding crime reporting.

Kassa said that the settlement is the first step toward revamping securityprocedures and reporting.

“This can be a very promising development in strengthening efforts toincrease campus safety and security on campus,” said Kassa. “This really islandmark moment. It is the cutting edge with what’s being done.”