By Shannon Najmabadi | The Texas Tribune
Texas State University dramatically under-reported how many sexual assaults occurred on its San Marcos campus in 2016 and 2017, according to revised figures the school released Monday as part of an annual security report.
On the school’s website, the university previously said there had been eight rapes in the two-year span.
In fact, there were 38, and a separate case of statutory rape.
There were also 32 instances of dating or domestic violence, and nine incidents of stalking during the two years at issue — a total of 41 cases, some of which may have overlapped with the rapes. Earlier, the university said there had been just eight such episodes. There were also four more robberies, four more aggravated assaults and more than 300 additional violations of drug, weapons or liquor laws that led to arrests or disciplinary referrals.
Other categories of crimes — like burglaries and instances of fondling — were slightly lower than had been originally reported. Police employees have spent weeks combing through old crime records to make the corrections.
Crime data may have been inaccurate in prior years. Monday’s report went back only to 2016, but it included the first release of 2018 statistics which showed 19 rapes for that year.
The Texas Tribune reported earlier this month that the Education Department was scrutinizing Texas State over its compliance with the federal Clery Act, a statute that requires schools to publish campus crime data and promptly warn students about ongoing or serious safety threats. The department can impose hefty fines on schools that don’t abide by the regulations.
School officials say they have not been told they are being reviewed or investigated, but that the department offered guidance on their campus security report due this week.
A spokesman for the Education Department said that the agency has a “longstanding policy not to comment on institutional oversight activities, program reviews, or investigations — including the acknowledgment that they exist — until the outcome officially has been communicated to the institution.”
Texas State has said its old crime-reporting system “did not produce accurate statistics,” and has already begun making reforms. In a statement Monday night, the school said it has “taken actions to resolve Clery reporting deficiencies,” including establishing an internal Clery compliance committee, working with a nationally known consultant, and joining a center that provides an external review of the annual security reports.
With today’s release, “Texas State University has corrected deficiencies identified in prior years’ reports, and implemented university-wide processes to help ensure accurate crime statistics reporting moving forward,” the statement said.
School officials are still trying to determine what went wrong.
Eric Algoe, a vice president for finance and support services who oversees the police department, previously said the school’s former chiefs did not have backgrounds in university policing or in federal requirements like Clery.
But former police employees told the Tribune it was administrators who failed to act on their warnings, and that the department lacked needed resources. Until February, when a new police chief took over, one employee handled Clery reporting responsibilities alongside other job duties.
The problems may have also related to old software and a lack of communication among various university offices, a shortcoming now addressed by the formation of the compliance committee.
Since mid-2018, the department has seen several leadership changes, including the unexpected departure of a former chief, and a shift to have the department report to Algoe instead of a student affairs official. (That official, vice president Joanne Smith, announced this month that she would retire at the end of the academic year; school officials say the decision is unrelated to issues in the police department.)
The changes followed a 2018 peer-review report that found a litany of problems in the police department, including that it lacked “sufficient personnel” and was “seriously deficient in emergency management planning, operations, and response and in overall compliance.”
The university has been working to reform their Clery processes since the review, which was conducted at the request of the university through an International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators program. All of the review’s recommendations have been addressed under the new police chief, Laurie Clouse, according to the university.
Separately, school officials say the Education Department contacted them in May and offered “technical assistance” to help them come into compliance with Clery.
The Education Department spokesman said that the agency monitors institutions’ compliance as part of its oversight responsibilities and that their assessments can lead them to offer technical assistance, start formal program reviews, or request no action from the institution at all.
Technical assistance might mean the agency has a conversation with a school security employee or conducts a webinar for them, the spokesman said. There is no typical timeframe for the process or resulting outcome, he said.
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