OSU found to be out of compliance with campus safety laws, audit shows
BY SAMANTHA VICENT World Correspondent
Monday, February 11, 2013
2/11/13 at 7:08 AM
STILLWATER - Oklahoma State University, currently under public scrutiny regarding its compliance with federal campus safety laws during a sex-tape investigation, was found noncompliant in its following of a federal law on security, a recent U.S. Department of Education audit has revealed.
The department gave OSU President Burns Hargis its final review of the university's compliance with the Clery Act on Aug. 4, 2011. On Jan. 12 that same year, three specialists from the department's Dallas office determined OSU's Police Department had inadequate policy statements in its reports, misclassified a sex crime as a burglary and failed to report crimes for non-campus properties.
The Clery Act is a federal statute enacted in 1990, which requires all colleges and universities receiving federal financial aid to publish annual security reports including crime statistics and security information, according to the Department of Education's website. Institutions must also maintain daily crime logs.
The audit looked at crimes reported to campus police from Jan. 1, 2008, until Dec. 31 of that year. In the 2008 annual security report, OSU's Police Department failed to include a list of titles of people or organizations where students and employees could report crimes, according to audit documents. The Police Department also did not include a description of procedures in place to encourage pastoral and professional counselors to tell their clients to notify police of crimes on a confidential basis.
In OSU's response, police Capt. Richard Atkins said he believed OSU was in compliance because the report included a list of such organizations.
"Because we are viewing the review as a chance to improve our report, we have added a list of titles ... and have included it in the modified version of the 2008 and 2009 annual security report," Atkins wrote.
In the second violation, the audit discovered a burglary should have been classified as a forcible sex offense. There were 49 burglaries and three forcible sex offenses reported in 2008, according to the document.
Atkins said the case in question was a multiple-offense situation, where a student's on-campus residence was burglarized and she was sodomized. He said the most serious crime alleged was the burglary, and that the sex crime was classified as a secondary offense. A data entry error caused OSUPD to miss the sex crime when compiling its annual security report, Atkins said.
"Several changes have been made in the case review procedures to detect this error in the future," he wrote.
The third violation alleged OSU did not include crime statistics for geographical areas associated with the university, such as the OSU-Tulsa, OSU-Oklahoma City, OSU-Okmulgee and OSU Health Sciences Center-Tulsa campuses, among others.
Atkins said each of OSU's other campuses published its own annual security report, and OSU did not provide programs at the other locations, like OSU's Tinker Air Force base program, that resulted in certifications or degrees.
The department countered his defense, saying educational instruction at locations under OSU's control don't have to result in certification or degrees to be included in crime statistics.
"Such locations may include satellite, extension or similar types of noncontiguous sites that have an organized program of study regardless of length or resulting credentials," Cynthia Norton, the Dallas area case director, wrote.
Noncompliance with the act can result in fines levied against universities, but they weren't recommended in this case, records show.
S. Daniel Carter, the director of the 32 National Campus Safety Index for the VTV Family Outreach Foundation, said the findings at OSU weren't dissimilar from those found at other universities at the time, which explains why OSU was not fined.
"That was the state of affairs in 2008 and 2009," he said. "Now, the dynamic has changed since then. Fines are more typical to begin with."
In OSU's most recent controversy, a female student filed a police report Jan. 19 that stated her ex-boyfriend, also a student, made a video of the pair together in October without her knowledge or consent. A university source confirmed the offense location matched the on-campus residence of an OSU football player.
In the incident report released Jan. 22, OSUPD released the alleged victim's name and identifiers but redacted the same information about the suspect and a witness. At the time, OSU Director of Communications Gary Shutt said names of suspects are always redacted until the case is closed or charges are filed. He also said the female student's name was not redacted because the offense is not a Clery Act-reportable crime, a decision that has called OSU's Clery Act compliance into question.
OSUPD has classified the case as a peeping Tom investigation, which is an invasion of privacy offense.
Clery Act regulations state disclosure of information in crime logs must not jeopardize victims' confidentiality. Carter said that protection does not extend to individual police report information, meaning police could discretionarily release or redact names.
"There's certainly an ethical question as to the propriety of that practice, but it has nothing to do with the Clery Act or FERPA," he said. "None of (the laws) affect whether or not publicly naming the victim of a sex crime, whether it be 'Clery' reportable or not, is prudent or proper, and that is what the discussion should really be about."
Atkins said Jan. 24 that the alleged victim's name became public once it appeared on OSUPD's dispatch logs. He also said he hoped the media would protect the victim's identity, but added the student would have to get a court order to seal or block her name from the police report.
It is the Tulsa World's policy not to publish names of alleged sex crime victims.
Shutt said Thursday afternoon that the case remains under investigation. No one has been charged with a crime in Payne County District Court.
Original Print Headline: OSU found to be out of compliance on security