Marshall Univ. to face federal investigation into its campus crime reporting

WEST VIRGINIA — The Department of Education is investigatingwhether Marshall University failed to report serious campus crimes as requiredby federal law.

According to the DOE’s Oct. 18 letter to Marshall, the department willconduct an “off-site review” in response to media reports — includingthose in Marshall’s student publication, The Parthenon — about theschool’s compliance with the federal Jeanne Clery Act. The letter requested 15specific data sets concerning campus security.

“We are providing the information they are requesting and we expect to workvery closely with the Department of Education to evaluate Marshall’scompliance,” Marshall spokesman Matt Turner said. “Certainly we would take anyadditional steps necessary to assure the safety and crime awareness here on ourcampus.”

Under the Clery Act, schools must publish detailed crime statistics, annualcrime reports and maintain a public crime log. However, the school missed thedeadline to file the most recent annual report and did not warn students after areported gang rape in September.

Turner said the school has now submitted the report and equipped itswebsite with an additional link to crime statistics under “Find It Fast.”

Marshall University Police Chief James Terry wrote in an Oct. 7 statementto the Parthenon that there was never an ongoing threat to the campuscommunity. After investigating the gang rape allegation, police determined thatno charges would be brought for lack of evidence, according to theParthenon.

A Department of Education spokesperson did not return calls seekingcomment.

If found to be in violation of the act, Marshall could face a $27,500 finefor each infraction.

“We have concerns for the campus community based on the multiple red flagsthat seem to be raised,” said Jonathan Kassa, executive director of Security onCampus, a national watchdog group for campus crime violations. “Occasionallymistakes are going to be made, such as a late filing. But when you consider thewider scope and a pattern, it becomes a problem.”

Kassa said he hopes the investigation launches dialogue on campusesnationwide.

“The Jeanne Clery Act is not intended to be punitive,” Kassa said. “Wewould much rather see an aggressive Department of Education but very few fines.What we support are collaborative strategies that help transform campus cultureand attitudes towards crime.”

How long the investigation will take is unclear, though Kassa said itcannot start soon enough.

“Somebody needs to go in there and figure out this semester whether theproper investigation occurred and whether a timely investigation did occur,because if not, you have the potential for a rapist being in the campuscommunity,” Kassa said. “If the school has problems being compliant with themore simple aspects of the Jeanne Cleary Act, how capable are they of performingmore complicated investigations?”