PULLMAN, Wash. In response to an appeal by the university, a federal administrative judge has issued an order reducing a proposed Department of Education fine to Washington State University from $82,500 to $15,000.
Originally issued in August 2011, the fine resulted from a U.S. Department of Education review that concluded that WSU in 2007 committed violations of the Clery Act. The case related to the misclassification and reporting of two sex-related crimes and failure to provide complete statements about campus crime reporting procedures in the university’s annual compliance report.
“We are pleased with the judge’s ruling,” said WSU President Elson S. Floyd. “We believed that the earlier fine did not accurately reflect the level of the violations or the steps that our university had already taken to guarantee Clery Act compliance in the future. We appreciated the opportunity to state our case and we thank the judge for his careful consideration of the facts in this matter.”
While it did not dispute the violations, the university appealed the amount of the fine imposed at the time. WSU argued that voluntary actions taken to improve compliance prior to the review, as well as continuing efforts to meet both the letter and the intent of the Clery Act, made the amount of the fine unnecessarily harsh.
University officials strongly disagreed with any contention that the mistakes in reporting put members of the university community at risk.
In his ruling, Judge Ernest C. Canellos wrote: “There was no evidence of a fraudulent intent by anyone associated with the erroneous submissions – in fact, there was no evidence of previous violations of the reporting requirements; WSU corrected its violations prior to the issuance of the FPRD (final program review determination); and clearly there were no federal funds put in jeopardy by virtue of the violations. Finally, it seems quite apparent that similar errors in the Clery Act reporting process will not recur in the future by virtue of the corrective measures that WSU’s new police chief has implemented.”
Canellos’ ruling can be read at http://www.ed-oha.org/cases/2011-56-SF.pdf. The Department of Education has 30 days in which to seek further appeal.