Update, 11:00 p.m.: The University's $1.5 million fine is the third largest Clery Act fine settlement to date, said S. Daniel Carter, president of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses, LLC.
Carter said the consulting firm advises colleges and universities on campus security policy, and conducts Clery Act audits. As time has gone by and enforcement becomes more consistent, fines have generally become more frequent and larger, he said.
Carter said beyond the settlement fine, he believes the implementation of a post-review monitoring program is critical to ensuring Clery Act compliance and campus safety.
"The gold standard that this sets is far more important to keeping students, employees and visitors safe at the University of North Carolina," Carter said.
UNC has entered into a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Education requiring the University pay a $1.5 million fine over violations of the Clery Act, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz announced in a campus-wide email.
The Department of Education previously concluded in August 2019 that UNC had, for years, mishandled campus safety claims under the Clery Act, which requires institutions receiving federal support to report crime statistics. The 2019 report was based on nine initial findings identified in February 2017 of the University’s noncompliance with the Clery Act, including a failure to properly disclose and compile crime statistics, collect campus crime information from all sources and follow institutional policy regarding alleged sex offenses.
“As I said in November, while the University has made many safety improvements and staffing changes since the review began in 2013, the shortcomings noted in it are nonetheless disappointing and do not meet our standards for excellence,” Guskiewicz said in his email sent Tuesday afternoon.
Under the settlement, over the next three years, the University will also engage in a post-review monitoring program, which is expected to remain in place until areas of concern have been addressed and the Department of Education is reasonably satisfied.
“Information gathered during Post-Review Monitoring will inform the Department’s determinations about UNC’s Clery Act compliance and Title IV eligibility going forward,” the settlement states. “Any serious lapses in Clery Act compliance in the future could negatively affect the terms of the University’s participation in the Title IV, student financial assistance programs.”
The agreement acknowledges a series of recent actions taken on campus to address the violations, including the establishment of designated Clery Act compliance coordinator and police records management positions, development of enhanced training for UNC Police and creation of a vice chancellor for Institutional Integrity and Risk Management.
In his email, Guskiewicz also said that the University engaged campus safety consulting firm Margolis Healy to make recommendations on ways to address the Clery Act violations.
According to the settlement, the consultant designed a Clery Act Program Support Plan for UNC. Parts of the plan involve the consultant conducting a data audit to evaluate the accuracy of crime statistics and compliance with the Department of Education’s timeliness warning and helping the University to classify Clery geography.
As a part of the post-review monitoring program, the settlement also states that among other provisions, UNC will:
- Form a Clery Compliance Committee, which will include members from various offices across campus involved in safety and crime prevention
- Ensure all officials involved in investigations continue to receive specialized trauma-informed training
- Review the current design of the “Clery Incident Report Form” in consultation with the Department of Education
- Participate in a “complete reassessment” of protocols related to campus and fire safety, crime prevention and substance abuse prevention policies
“We are committed to putting the right people, training and resources in place to continuously improve and strengthen our Clery Act compliance and safety program, and to keep pace with the very best practices on college campuses nationwide,” Guskiewicz said. “Our campus community deserves nothing less.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.