Green River College has won its appeal to reduce a more than half-million dollar fine the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) imposed on the school for failing to accurately track and maintain crime statistics and disclose them to the public.
The DOE in October fined the college $574,500 for failing to comply with the Clery Act and the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act. Its investigation between 2009 and 2013 determined that the college had failed to meet its obligations under the act and under a federal consumer protection law that requires it to report campus crime statistics and dictates how college campuses report them to the public.
While the college did not dispute a majority of the DOE findings, it did object to the hefty fine. The college appealed the amount.
On Dec. 6, in an email shared with the campus community, GRC President Suzanne Johnson notified the college that the DOE intends to reduce the fine to $250,000.
“This significant reduction (of $324,500) is a testament to the hard work from faculty and staff across campus to provide a safe and welcoming space for all who visit, work and study on campus,” Johnson said in the email. “This dedication and commitment has resulted in a better Green River College.”
Johnson said the decision brings closure to the November 2015 on-site program review conducted by the DOE.
“As I indicated in my Oct. 3 Clery communication, college operations will not be impacted, nor will there be any negative affects to students or staff in paying this fine. We are moving forward and will continue to work to ensure that we have policies, procedures and resources in place to serve our students and community. “
The violations occurred before Johnson took office in 2017.
Among the 13 findings, the DOE’s report cited the college’s “lack of administrative capability,” and its failures: “to compile and disclose accurate and complete crime statistics; to properly disclose crime statistics by location; to maintain an accurate and complete crime log; to maintain an accurate and complete fire log; to properly request crime statistics from local law enforcement agencies; to comply with Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Program requirements; and to actively notify prospective students of the college’s 2014 and 2015 annual safety reports and annual fire safety reports.”
Johnson asserted that the college has made significant strides to address the previous shortcomings as recognized by the Administrative Actions and Appeals Service Group, and that the National Association of Clery Compliance Officers and Professionals (NACCOP) named Green River College as the Most Improved Clery Compliance Program at its 2017 Annual NACCOP Conference Recognition Ceremony.
The aforementioned award, Johnson noted, recognizes programs that have significantly improved within the last 3-5 years by overcoming historical weaknesses of the compliance program and working to address shortcomings while enhancing the institution’s capacity for complying with the Clery Act.
Compliance with Clery is required for Title IV funding, and Green River received more than $13 million in Title IV funding in 2015-2016.
To set its ship right, Johnson noted that GRC has taken the following steps:
• Created an internal Clery Compliance Committee in 2015 with representatives from campus safety, Title IX, housing, judicial affairs, facilities, college relations and human resources;
• Hired a new director of campus safety and an assistant director of campus safety;
• Implemented new technology to track and code Clery crimes;
• Provided additional training for staff responsible for Clery reporting;
• Improved transparency of communications for college issues that present safety concerns.
• In May of 2016, changed the crime incident log to “Report Exec,” nationally-recognized software that supports Clery information reporting requirements, including specific location data and incident report disposition; and
• Reviewed and re-mapped all Green River College Clery geography to establish areas the Clery Act defines as “on campus, on-campus residential and public property.”