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University of Jamestown to appeal $210,000 fine for violations

A man walks across the sidewalk in front of Voorhees Chapel Oct. 3 on the University of Jamestown (N.D.) campus. John M. Steiner / Forum News Service

JAMESTOWN, N.D. — The University of Jamestown will appeal a $210,000 fine levied by the U.S. Department of Education last month for violating federal laws that require colleges and universities report crime on campus and enact a drug and alcohol abuse prevention program.

"We just feel it warrants discussion because of our compliance efforts," said Tena Lawrence, the university's vice president for marketing and communications.

In response to its failure to meet requirements under the federal campus crime law known as the Clery Act, as well as the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, the university has hired a full-time director of campus safety and formed an oversight committee in addition to instituting new policies and reporting procedures.

The Clery Act, signed into law in 1990, is named after Jeanne Clery, who was raped and murdered in 1986 in her residence hall at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. The Clery Act requires colleges report on-campus crime statistics and safety policies.

A letter to University of Jamestown President Robert Badal from Susan D. Crimm, director of the administrative actions and appeals service group of the Department of Education's federal student aid and enforcement unit, described the violations as "very serious and numerous."

The Department of Education announced an off-site review of the University of Jamestown on Oct. 24, 2014, after receiving a complaint of alleged multiple Clery Act violations. The University of Jamestown is one of 10 colleges and universities fined this year for such transgressions.

"The complaint alleged serious violations primarily centered on Jamestown's persistent failure to develop and implement required campus safety and crime prevention policies, procedures and programmatic disclosures," the Department of Education said in a footnote of a December 2016 final program review determination letter.

The initial examination period was for records from 2010 to 2013, but was expanded to include 2015 "upon discovery of severe deficiencies within Jamestown's campus safety operation and compliance programs."

The Department of Education found 55 violations in the university's crime and fire logs during 2013 to 2015, according to the letter. The review also found the university omitted information about sexual assault prevention and reporting.

There also were reportedly discrepancies in the university's crime statistics that were submitted to the Department of Education and the campus community.

The letter said the university attempted to provide evidence to back up crime statistics, but "the university legal counsel firm of Dorsey & Whitney LLP stated in an electronic mail message dated Jan. 2, 2015, that the computer used to maintain the crime statistics was infected with a virus and that 'all security information from 2011 and prior was lost ...'"

The university also apparently failed to distribute information on its drug and alcohol abuse prevention plan.

The University of Jamestown is a private, nonprofit college with campuses in Jamestown and Fargo. There were 1,136 students enrolled at the university this fall, according to a news release.

The case will be referred to the Department of Education's Office of Hearings and Appeals.

Clery Act compliance

Compliance with the Clery Act provides a framework for institutional prevention and response to campus crime, Alison Kiss, executive director of the Clery Center, a national nonprofit that provides guidance to colleges and universities, said in an email.

Findings of noncompliance are common, though program review findings can vary, she said.

The Clery Center describes common compliance challenges, which includes the collection and sharing of campus crime statistics, distribution of annual security and fire reports by a set deadline and maintaining daily crime logs.

Because many violations stem from a lack of training and inconsistent policies on campus, a multidisciplinary team focused on Clery Act compliance can be helpful in avoiding potential violations, according to Kiss.