Tuesday, July 7, 2020

MSU to pay record $4.5M fine for campus crime reporting failures

September 5, 2019
<p>Beaumont Tower photographed on May 15, 2019.</p>

Beaumont Tower photographed on May 15, 2019.

Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

Michigan State University is ordered to pay a $4.5 million fine to the U.S. Department of Education for failures to create mandated crime reporting and public safety networks at the university.

Under federal law, MSU is required to publish annual crime data in an annual security report. The Department of Education found significant gaps in compliance with the Clery Act from MSU and has since investigated the problems.

The department created an agreement with the university to implement corrective actions.

The university is required in the agreement to overhaul its crime and safety practices and policies. The university will have to identify shortcomings in training and procedures in consultation with the department.

The position of a Clery Act Compliance officer will now be required to be filled by an individual not employed by or under the sole authority of the MSU Office of the General Counsel, as it was previously.

A Clery Compliance Committee will be required, comprising of representatives from all offices regularly involved with campus safety and crime prevention.

Campus Security Authorities, or CSAs will have to be identified and alerted of their responsibilities. The university will also have to update its training opportunities.

CSAs are defined by federal regulations as “any institutional employee with safety-related job functions” and “any official that has significant responsibilities for student life or activities.” 

According to a December report from the department, MSU historically failed to identify CSAs. Past Clery compliance coordinators said the position of coordinator was a secondary duty and that they were self taught.

Communication to CSAs, alerting them to their responsibilities, has been so poor in the past that the number of identified CSAs remained in the 40s from 2011 to 2014. By 2015, that number rocketed to 1,499.

MSU's offices of Human Resources and Academic Human Resources will have to collaborate with the Clery Compliance Committee to notify CSAs of their responsibilities, along with aiding in creating communication channels within the university to report suspected criminal activity.

A major issue cited in the December report was a lack of clarity in the geographic coverage of Clery compliance, resulting in crimes going undocumented in the Clery Report and safety alerts not being issued to the university community. In the agreement, the university has to define the land and buildings in it's geographic responsibility.

Medical patients at MSU facilities will be offered greater opportunity to receive protected healthcare, with the option to have an additional person in the room, to have sensitive procedures explained to them, have safety protocols explained and more.

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