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Report: UNC-Chapel Hill violated federal laws on reporting crimes, handling sexual assaults

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill violated federal campus safety laws over the course of several years, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Education.

The violations included omitting dozens of serious crimes from annual reports, providing inadequate support for victims of sexual assault and using a university Honor Court to retaliate against a student who publicized the university’s poor response to her alleged sexual assault — and others’. The violations could mean six-figure fines for the university.

UNC-Chapel Hill Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz addressed the report, which the university first received in August, in a message to the university community on Monday night.

From that message:

The University has received the full results of the U.S. Department of Education’s six-year review of compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, which requires campuses to publish and distribute an annual security and fire safety report that accurately discloses campus crime statistics and other information.

This review was prompted by two complaints filed in early 2013 and looked at crime and safety reporting issues between 2009 and 2016. The University first announced the U.S. Department of Education was conducting this review in 2013. We have been cooperating fully with the department and are awaiting a determination on the final disposition of this matter. Understanding that the process is still ongoing, we wanted to communicate the findings of the report and our next steps.

The review cited violations in several areas including collecting, compiling and reporting crime statistics; defining campus geography to meet Clery Act criteria; issuing timely warnings; and including required information in annual security and fire safety reports.

While we have made many safety improvements and staffing changes since 2013, the shortcomings noted in the review are extremely concerning, disappointing, and do not meet the University’s high standards. [UNC-Chapel Hill Police] Chief [David] Perry and I agree we can and must do more.

Over the past three months, we have been in touch with officials from the U.S. Department of Education to discuss these findings and how best to move forward.

The UNC campus newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, reported extensively on the review and its consequences late Monday and Tuesday.

From the paper’s story:

The education department’s final report was based on nine initial findings identified in February 2017 of UNC being out of compliance with the Clery Act over its review period. Those findings were categorized as:

  • Lack of Administrative Capability
  • Failure to Properly Define the Campus/Clery Geography
  • Failure to Issue Timely Warnings
  • Failure to Properly Compile and Disclose Crime Statistics
  • Discrepancies between the Crime Statistics Included in the ASR and the Data Submitted to the Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool
  • Failure to Collect Campus Crime Information from All Required Sources
  • Failure to Follow Institutional Policy in a Case of an Alleged Sex Offense
  • Failure to Disclose Accurate and Complete Disciplinary Referral Statistics – Failure to Retain Records Needed to Substantiate Clery Act Compliance
  • Failure to Include Required Information in the Annual Fire Safety Reports

The report sustained all except for one of these findings, the exception being the “Failure to Disclose Accurate and Complete Disciplinary Referral Statistics” finding.

The Clery Act division’s review of UNC began with a campus visit in April 2013 with the aim of reviewing incident reports, arrest records, and student and employee disciplinary documents. The review was later expanded to review “the accuracy and completeness of the University’s crime statistics through the end of calendar year 2015,” according to the report.

The review process then comprised years of back-and-forth up to last May between the compliance division and UNC, though the report noted that “despite the department’s best efforts, it proved impossible to (fully) reconcile (UNC’s) narrative response with most parts” of its file reviews.

“Well into 2019, UNC showed that it was unable or unwilling to produce an accurate, complete, fully reconciled and well-organized response to the department’s initial report,” the division stated.

Similar phrasing persists throughout, with the department even stating it “has substantial reason to believe that other violations may have occurred during and after the file review period” that were not gathered or assessed.

 

The review comes on the heels of last month’s survey showing nearly half of the female students at UNC-Chapel Hill have experienced some form of sexual assault by their fourth year at the school.

It also follows controversy over  the school’s selection of new UNC-Chapel Hill Chief of Police David L. Perry, over which many in the university community expressed concern.

Perry’s tenure as chief of police at Florida State University was marred by criticism of how his office handled 2012 rape allegations against Jameis Winston, then a star football player for the university.

Read the full U.S. Department of Education review here.

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