By CS Staff · November 3, 2016
The U.S. Department of Education announced on Thursday that it wants to fine Penn State University nearly $2.4 million for failing to comply with the Clery Act over its handling of on-campus sex offenses involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
The penalty is the largest ever assessed for Clery violations — nearly seven times more than the $350,000 fine levied against Eastern Michigan in 2007.
The fine covers 11 of the department’s findings of Clery Act noncompliance related to Penn State’s handling of Sandusky’s crimes and “the university’s longstanding failure to comply with federal requirements on campus safety and substance abuse.” Sandusky, who was employed under head coach Joe Paterno, was convicted in 2012 of sexually abusing several young boys over multiple years. Several of those incidents took place on campus.
The Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid launched an investigation of Penn State’s compliance with the Clery Act in 2011 after Sandusky was indicted. The investigation looked at the university’s compliance from 1998 to 2011 because the allegations of abuse covered that 14-year span.
- Clery Act violations related to the Sandusky matter (proposed fine: $27,500).
- Lack of administrative capability as a result of the University’s substantial failures to comply with the Clery Act and the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act throughout the review period, including insufficient training, support, and resources to ensure compliance (proposed fine: $27,500).
- Omitted and/or inadequate annual security report and annual fire safety report policy statements (proposed fine: $37,500).
- Failure to issue timely warnings in accordance with federal regulations.
- Failure to properly classify reported incidents and disclose crime statistics from 2008-2011 (proposed fine: $2,167,500).
- Failure to establish an adequate system for collecting crime statistics from all required sources (proposed fine: $27,500).
- Failure to maintain an accurate and complete daily crime log.
- Reporting discrepancies in crime statistics published in the annual security report and those reported to the department’s campus crime statistics database (proposed fine: $27,500).
- Failure to publish and distribute an annual security report in accordance with federal regulations (proposed fine: $27,500).
- Failure to notify prospective students and employees of the availability of the annual security report and annual fire safety report (proposed fine: $27,500).
- Failure to comply with the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (proposed fine: $27,500).
- Penn State responded to each of the department’s findings. After a careful analysis of the university’s response, the department sustained all findings.
Penn State issued the following statement in response to the fine:
Penn State provided the federal government with unfettered access to all requested information in the Department of Education review. This review, in scope and duration, is unprecedented by the Department of Education. The review is focused on past incidents, policies and procedures from 1998-2011. We have just received the report today and are in the process of conducting a thorough review so that we may better understand its findings. We will comment further when our thorough evaluation of the department’s 239-page report has been completed.
While regrettably we cannot change the past, today the University has been recognized for significantly strengthening our programs since 2011. The safety and security of our University community is a top priority and we are dedicated to full compliance with the Clery Act and the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act.
Today, Penn State has robust Clery training and collection processes in place. We have many initiatives, including 18 focused on fighting sexual assault and misconduct, with the creation of new positions, mandatory employee training, a universal hotline and many others. Part of our process includes regular evaluation of our efforts, the analysis of best practice and incorporation of learnings into our operations. For a list of Penn State’s major efforts, visit http://www.psu.edu/ur/newsdocuments/Actions_since_2011.pdf.
The university recognizes that Clery Act compliance cannot be an end unto itself, but is rather part of a broader culture of compliance. We will continue our numerous and vigorous efforts to create a culture of reporting, safety and accountability, and have integrated compliance at every level.