Six California colleges were not fully compliant with the Clery Act, state audit finds

CALIFORNIA — Six surveyed colleges in California are not in full compliance with the Clery Act’s standards for campus crime reporting and security policy disclosure, a recent report released by the state auditor found.

The report audited Fresno City College, San Francisco State University, Shasta College, Stanford University, the University of California San Diego, and the University of the Redlands. Only Fresno City correctly reported its crime specifics, and only Stanford disclosed all of its policies in its 2014 annual security report.

The report found 13 reporting errors, including one Clery Act crime that an institution did not report. Five crimes were misclassified as Clery Act crimes — for example, two thefts were misreported as burglaries, which the Clery Act requires institutions to report (the statute does not require colleges to report thefts). More than half of the errors involved misreporting the location where the Clery Act crime occurred.

The auditor also surveyed 79 campuses across California with enrollments of 500 or more that participated in federal financial aid programs and reported no criminal offenses for 2013.

Most of the 79 campuses said that they had processes in place to help ensure they report accurate crime statistics — most said they provided a link on their website to view their security policies and annual crime statistics.

But 21 percent of these respondents did not indicate that they notify their current students and employees of their campus security policies and annual crime statistics, which they are required to do under the Clery Act.

Since colleges self-report crime rates, including of sexual assault and other violent crime, the disclosure rates can be misleading low and some colleges claim they have never experienced a violent crime. In an investigative series, ‘Campus Insecurity,’ Student Press Law Center reporter Sara Gregory and the Columbus Dispatch exposed the secrecy and leniency of colleges’ response to sexual assault.

The California report also found that the most frequently incomplete or missing policy disclosures related to the Violence Against Women Act, which in 2014 added specific policy statements that institutions are now required to include in their annual security reports.

The Clery Act, named for Pennsylvania college student Jeanne Clery, who was murdered in her dorm room by a fellow student in 1986, first took effect in 1998. It mandates that all colleges and universities that accept federal funding — virtually all colleges — provide timely (or in some cases, “immediate”) warning to the campus community of crimes considered to be a threat to physical safety that are reported to campus security or local law enforcement.

In addition to notification of individual crimes, the law requires that schools provide an annual statistical report and a daily campus crime log. The statistical report must include campus security policies and procedures and a listing of policies that encourage accurate and prompt reporting of crime to the campus police and law enforcement agencies.

The California state auditor has conducted five audits of California’s public institutions since 2002, when it became a requirement under state statute.

The issues in the most recent report are similar to those in the four previous reports. The report recommends that compliance could improve with more guidance from the systemwide offices of the state’s public institutions, and from the creation of a state entity that provides guidance to all institutions.

For Sunshine Week in April, the Student Press Law Center conducted its own audit of Washington, D.C.-area colleges — Catholic University of America, Georgetown University, American University, and George Washington University. SPLC reporters, equipped with GoPro cameras, went to the universities’ police departments and asked to see campus crime logs for the past 60 days. Only Georgetown did not provide or let the SPLC reporter review a physical copy of its crime log on site, as federal law requires.