Education

UNC-CH will pay $1.5M to settle claims it violated crime reporting law

Posted June 30, 2020 3:13 p.m. EDT
Updated June 30, 2020 5:42 p.m. EDT

— The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will pay a $1.5 million fine and implement a list of other steps to settle claims that the institution violated a federal law governing the disclosure of crime on campus.

In August 2019, the U.S. Department of Education concluded after a six-year investigation that the university had failed to properly disclose crime statistics, appropriately warn the campus community of public safety issues and meet other requirements of the Clery Act. In addition to the fine paid to DOE, the settlement agreement finalized last week requires the university to make organizational changes, establish an oversight committee and submit to three years of monitoring by the federal agency.

"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 settlement says.

The agreement acknowledges the university has already made some of the required improvements, including the hiring of staff to better manage police records, retain a campus safety consultant and enhance its training program for police.

"Protecting the safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors remains a critical priority for our university," Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said in a statement Tuesday. "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. Our campus community deserves nothing less."

Guskiewicz said that in addition to hiring the consulting firm Margolis Healy to provide recommendations on improving campus safety, the university has already formed a Campus Safety Commission. That group provided its own recommendation in an initial report on May 28.

Among the consultant's responsibilities will be the independent monitoring of UNC-Chapel Hill's efforts to fix its compliance issues with the Clery Act. The settlement requires the firm – or any other consultant that takes its place – to report on the university's progress every six months, with the first report due on Sept. 1.

The Department of Education's investigation began after complaints about the school's handling of sexual assault cases. When the results of the Department of Education's review were released publicly in November, the university said multiple changes had already taken place. The settlement does not impact any complaints filed against the school by former or current students.

As part of the agreement, UNC-Chapel Hill does not admit to any wrongdoing.

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