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'There Was No Intention To Deceive' Says DPS In Response To Underreporting Sexual Assaults

Michelle Bergmann |
October 8, 2013 | 5:35 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

The University of Southern California (USC) and Occidental University recently disclosed that they underreported sexual assault cases in 2010 and 2011 according to an article published today in the Los Angeles Times. 

The article stated that USC underreported 13 sexual assault cases, bringing the university's total up to 39; Occidental underreported 24 cases, bringing its total up to 36. 

USC's Department of Public Safety's Clery Center says that they voluntarily self-reported these numbers in an effort to establish transparency after discovering the violation, and they were well aware of how it could affect the school's reputation for safety.

"We all agreed this would be misinterpreted and could raise some eyebrows, but we were trying to do the right thing and decided to self-publish," said Deputy Chief David Carlisle in response to the outpouring news.  

Under the Federal Clery Act, colleges and universities participating in financial aid are required to report crime statistics and security information to the Department of Education. 

The law, established in 1990, attempts to give the public an apples to apples comparison of campus crime rates. The information extracted from these reports could potentially help or hamper a school's reputation.

According to Carlisle, the Clery Act offers exemptions on reporting sexual assaults to clergy, counselors or anyone who requests anonymity. However, the act also states that if a staff or faculty member is determined to be of "campus security" these exemptions do not apply and they must report the crime.

The blunder occurred after DPS failed to recognize that the head of the Center for Women and Men, a counseling center, was in fact enlisted as a member of campus security and - by omitting sexual assault reports - had committed a federal crime.

"The Clery Act is very complex, a page-after-page document; it is not as simple as one might think," said Carlisle. "There was no intention to deceive."

As for Occidental, Carlisle couldn't comment, but said he could see that it may have also been an oversight. 

To avoid mishaps in the future, DPS is in the testing stages of hiring on a full-time employee whose job will be entirely dedicated to making sure USC is in compliance with the Clery Act. 

"This is not something that we take lightly. The last thing in the world is that we would not take sexual assault seriously," said Carlisle. 

For violating the Federal Clery Act, USC could be looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

Reach Staff Reporter Michelle Bergmann here.



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