U. of Texas at Arlington Faces Fine for Misreporting Crime Data

May 07, 2013

For misclassifying crimes and underreporting disciplinary actions, the U.S. Department of Education has fined the University of Texas at Arlington $82,500, a penalty the institution is appealing.

The department imposed the fine last month under the federal campus-crime reporting law known as the Clery Act, each violation of which can cost an institution $27,500. According to a review by the department in 2011, the Arlington campus had improperly classified a forcible sex offense as an assault and an aggravated assault as an assault of a family member. Both crimes occurred in 2008.

Also that year, the department found, the university excluded 27 liquor, drug, and weapons violations—classified as "disciplinary actions"—from crime statistics that by law must be submitted to federal officials and distributed publicly each year. On that count, the department imposed a third $27,500 fine.

"Statistical data ... must be accurate and reliable," the Education Department wrote in a letter to James D. Spaniolo, president of UT-Arlington. "These failures have endangered UTA's students and employees who must be able to rely on the disclosures ... to take precautions for their safety."

A month after the department issued its findings, in 2011, UT-Arlington revised its crime statistics, said Kristin Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the university. And starting in 2009, she said, it has been using new computer software to help officers classify and report incidents.

The department has granted the Arlington campus a hearing in its appeal, but that date is not yet set, Ms. Sullivan said.

Of about a dozen fines the Education Department has levied under the Clery Act—the largest, $350,000, against Eastern Michigan University—the amounts of several have changed on appeal, a few more than once.

A fine against Virginia Tech for not warning its campus sooner after the first of two fatal shootings there in 2007, initially $55,000, was reduced to zero, then raised to $27,500 by the secretary of education, Arne Duncan; then raised to $32,500 after further review by the department. The university is now appealing that penalty.

Correction (5/7/2013, 12:11 p.m.): Because of an editing error, this article originally misstated when the University of Texas at Arlington started using new software to help classify and report incidents of crime. It was 2009, not 2008. The article has been updated to reflect this correction.