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Saturday, December 20, 2014

UNM could face fines for not complying with Cleary Act

UNM could be looking at heavy fines if the Department of Education turns its eye on the University.

According to an internal auditor’s report released in mid-August, UNM is “not substantially compliant” with the Clery Act, which requires schools to properly communicate and monitor campus safety issues.

The school is working immediately to resolve the issues, said Deputy UNM Police Chief Christine Chester, who was also named interim Clery coordinator based on the auditor’s recommendation. But if the Department of Education audits the school before all of the problems are solved, it’s anyone’s guess whether there will be fines.

“The Department of Education has put 55 schools on their radar, and fortunately we have not been contacted for an audit,” she said. “But if they did come, we would be in non-compliance and subject to fines.”

Those fines run up to $35,000 per instance of non-compliance, according to the Clery Act Handbook, but Chester said every recommendation from the internal auditor should be implemented by June, 2015.

In the report, the auditor found that UNM had not effectively communicated the importance of Clery Act compliance, had not created an organized system to verify crime, disciplinary, fire or safety information, nor clearly defined the locations of UNM properties.

The Clery Act states that any location owned by a university, regardless of its use as a learning facility, must be part of the areas monitored for safety. This would include locations in other countries, preserves and other University holdings.

Chester said the auditor’s report also recommended creating a Clery steering committee. While this is not a Clery Act mandate, UNM’s eight-person Clery Steering Committee had their first meeting shortly after the auditor’s report was released.

Another area of concern in the auditor’s report was the lack of an evacuation plan for the entire campus, but UNMPD Lt. Tim Stump said the department is creating that plan now.

“They have given us several recommendations because of how involved Clery has become. Before it was just crime reporting but now several different things have grown,” he said in an email.

Part of the problem, Chester said, is that traditionally compliance with the Clery Act has fallen to a school’s security or police team. However, as the act has been amended to add more requirements, it has become too big for any one department to monitor.

“Early on, the Clery Act was primarily focused on crime statistics and so it pretty much fell on the police department’s shoulders to ensure those crime statistics were reported annually. With the new amendments, it just became an overwhelming task to do on its own. For Clery compliance, it’s got to be a collaborative University-wide effort,” she said.

The most recent amendment to the Clery Act came in 2013 when additional requirements were added to include the Violence Against Women Act. That amendment requires universities to also monitor things like stalking and dating violence on or near the campus.

Stump said UNMPD already monitors those things and will be able to easily include them in the report.

“In the next annual security and fire safety report that comes out on Oct. 1, those will be included,” he said.

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act requires any colleges and universities participating in federal financial aid programs to monitor and inform the public about crimes on and near their campuses.

The act is named after 19-year-old Jeanne Clery, who in 1986 was raped and murdered in her Lehigh University dorm room, after the school failed to warn students about crime in the area.

Clery Act requirements in a nutshell

Publish an annual security report by Oct. 1 that documents three years worth of campus crime statistics

Have a public crime log

Disclose crime statistics for the campus and immediate public areas

Issue timely warnings about serious or ongoing crimes that could affect students

Devise an emergency response, notification and testing policy

Publish an annual fire safety report

Have policies and procedures for missing student reports

Source: clerycenter.org

Jyllian Roach is editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at editorinchief@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @Jyllian_R.