OCU fails to comply with Clery Act requirements
Oklahoma City University failed to make its updated crime log publicly available in recent months despite being required by federal law to do so, campus journalists reported recently.
OCU officials also refused to provide archived crime logs promptly and failed to publish up-to-date annual crime statistics by the required deadline, reported MediaOCU.com.
The U.S. Department of Education office that investigates Clery Act violations has been sent the students' articles. Schools can be fined up to $35,000 for each infraction of the Clery Act.
The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act explicitly requires private universities that receive federal funding and maintain a police department to make a daily crime log available for public inspection during normal business hours. (20 USC §1092(f)(4)(A)(B)))
All crimes must be added to the log within two business days (Monday through Friday, except for school holidays) of their initial report to campus police.
But OCU officials were unable to provide current crime logs on April 2 and April 11 when requested by student reporters. OCU officials said the crime logs were available on the police department's website.
But the students discovered that the most-recent crime log entry was Jan. 31. Madi Alexander's story included a screen shot of the online crime log from April 11.
Not until April 16 did OCU officials correct the online crime log, Alexander reported.
OCU spokeswoman Sandy Pantlik blamed the 10 weeks of missing crime logs on a technical glitch.
In a written statement, Pantlik implied that OCU hadn't violated the Clery Act because the school had sent "crime stats via email on a regular basis to a broad list of campus recipients, including MediaOCU."
"MediaOCU did post OCU crime logs and police reports to the university website throughout February, March and the first of April, making the statistics available through an online source associated with the university," Pantlik wrote.
However, OCU did not send all crime log entries to the student media. Moreover, I'm sure that student media's posting of some crime reports didn't absolve OCU of its statutory obligation to have all crime logs publicly available.
The U.S. Department of Education seems to agree.
"Your log may be either hard copy or electronic," says the department's handbook on complying with the Clery Act. "If your institution has an electronic log and there are technical problems that make it unusable, use a hard copy log as a temporary replacement until the problems are resolved." (p. 95)
OCU officials also refused to provide archived crime logs to Alexander within two business days of her request.
Pantlik said OCU is "not required the Clery Act, by the Clery Act regulations, or by the Handbook to make these archived logs available upon request." Instead, she said on April 19, the records would be provided within 30 days.
But the federal regulations for complying with the Clery Act say portions of crime logs older than 60 days must be made "available with two business days of a request for public inspection." (34 CFR 668.46(f)(5))
Alexander said Wednesday (May 22) that she hasn't received the archived logs.
Alexander also reported that OCU had failed to include its 2011 crime statistics in its 2012 report. The university had included only 2008-2010.
The Clery Act requires schools to publish annual security reports that include crime statistics for the most recent calendar year and two preceding calendar years. (20 USC §1092(f)(1)(F)))
The report must be published and distributed by Oct. 1.
"This is a firm deadline. There is no grace period and there are no exemptions," the handbook emphasizes.
Alexander noted that OCU's security report wasn't corrected until April 21 and only after she and another reporter brought other apparent Clery Act violations to the attention of school officials.
The students had also pointed out that victim addresses were included in 10 crime log reports.
Pantlik said OCU "is not required by the Clery Act or by federal regulations adopted with respect to the Clery Act to remove room numbers from university crime logs."
But the statute says, "All entries that are required pursuant to this paragraph shall, except where disclosure of such information is prohibited by law or such disclosure would jeopardize the confidentiality of the victim, be open to public inspection within two business days of the initial report being made to the department or a campus security authority." (20 USC §1092(f)(4)(B)(i)))
The handbook explains:
[I]f the state crime log requires the victims’ names to be listed, for Clery purposes those names must be redacted for public inspection. The federal Clery Act regulations state that a disclosure may not jeopardize the confidentiality of the victim. This takes precedence over state crime log laws. (p. 90)
Pantlik said OCU "does attempt to follow the guidelines set forth in the Handbook." The addresses were later redacted.
OCU officials remain adamant that they have not violated the Clery Act.
Joey Senat, Ph.D.
OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, or its board of directors. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.