Dept. of Ed. finds MSU violated campus safety law for years

Local News
Michigan State University

A new report by the U.S. Department of Education found Michigan State University violated campus safety laws for years.

The investigation by the Education Department found MSU underreported crime statistics. It also demonstrated “a lack of institutional control” in its handling of the Larry Nassar case.

According to the report, the department reviewed MSU Police records, as well as disciplinary reports and emails from 2011-2017. The investigation found MSU did not report crimes or report accurate crime statistics, did not warn students of possible criminal threats, as well as failed to properly train those responsible for reporting crimes. 

Federal officials told MSU the findings are “serious violations of the Clery Act.” The Clery Act requires colleges and universities to report crime statistics and security concerns.

‘Failure to Properly Disclose Crime Statistics’

Federal officials say MSU’s crime statistics were not accurate because they did not include crimes Nassar committed in the years the statistics were reported. The report says this is because MSU’s normal reporting process was not followed when it came to reporting Nassar’s crimes.

The investigation also found crimes committed on or near fraternity and soroitiy houses were not reported properly. In the report, officials say MSU only asked East Lansing police for statistics related to crimes that happen inside the houses. This, according to the report, excluded crimes that took place in areas outside the house, but were owned or controlled by the student organizations.

‘Failure to Issue Timely Warnings’

According to the report, MSU did not warn students and employees in a timely manner about Nassar’s crimes, as well as 21 other crimes that took place on or near campus between 2011-2016. Those crimes were either robberies, larcenies or assaults.

Federal officials say in the report the university’s failure to properly notify them of potential threats “deprives students and employees of vital, time-sensitive information, and effectively denies the campus community the opportunity to take steps to provide for their own safety.” It also says “Michigan State allowed robberies of expensive electronic devices and brazen burglaries of occupied dorm rooms – often directed against a particular ethnic demographic – to continue unabated.”

‘Failure to Identify, Notify Campus Security Authorities and to Establish an Adequate System for Collecting Crime Statistics’

The investigation found Michigan State did not properly identify people who are required to report crimes within the university. This includes what the report calls “Campus Security Authorities,” which are any employees with a safety-related job function.

The report says MSU did not inform these employees of their reporting obligations, including several within the athletic department. This, investigators say, allowed reports of Nassar’s abuse to go unreported.

The report also shows MSU’s Clery Act Coordinators did not receive formal training.

During an interview with an unnamed MSU employee, investigators found Clery Coordinators at the university were all self-taught. A second employee, who served as Clery Coordinator from January-November 2014, said he received little to no direction from his predecessor.

‘Lack of Administrative Capability, Institutional Control’

The report says all of the violations shows MSU did not have “the ability and/or willingness” to follow federal regulations. guidelines. It says, while in or around 2010, the university tried to establish a Clery Act compliance program, due to the lack of training, this program was not adequate.

Investigators also say MSU’s failure to detect and stop Nassar’s abuse bover the span of 20 years “indicates a lack of institutional control,” especially given the credible reports made to officials at the university. 

As a result of the findings, the Department of Education is requiring MSU to take several steps to correct these issues. This includes a review of all records relating to crime statistics, starting with 2011. It is also required to compile a list of current campus security authorities, and ensure they are properly trained on their requirements.

Michigan State University released a statement on the report. Read that below:

“On Feb. 19, 2018, the U.S. Department of Education formally initiated an evaluation of Michigan State University’s compliance with the Clery Act. The department provided MSU with a preliminary report of their findings to MSU on Dec. 14, 2018.

We appreciate the expertise and efforts of the Department of Education investigators. The university is committed to cooperating with the department and is carefully reviewing the preliminary findings. Our staff will continue to focus on making improvements to ensure accurate and transparent reporting on campus crime policy and statistics. It is our goal to be in full compliance with Clery Act requirements, which is one of the many ways we are working to strengthen campus safety.

As an example of MSU’s commitment to campus safety and the Clery Act, our staff has made several proactive improvements to our Clery Act compliance efforts:

  • Enhanced Clery Act training to ensure Campus Security Authorities are accurately identified and properly trained.
  • Joined the Big Ten Clery Coordinators group to share best practices with other university practitioners.
  • Strengthened and expanded the Clery Compliance Committee, the Clery Compliance Steering Committee and the Title IX Coordinated Response Team to enhance coordination and response to reports of crime across the university and to improve policies and procedures.

“The safety and well-being of our campus community is our top priority,” said MSU Acting President Satish Udpa. “The Nassar crimes caused so much pain to so many people, and we have more work to do to address those issues and support the survivors and our community. We welcome the opportunity to work with experts to review and strengthen areas as we renew our commitment to improve.” 

The report sent to MSU is preliminary. MSU is working on a written response to the Department of Education. The department will consider MSU’s response before issuing their final determination. Due to the complexities of the review, this process could take several months to complete. “

6 News has reached out to the U.S. Department of Education for comment.

ONLINE: Read the full report

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