Yale University faces a fine of $165,000 from the U.S. Department of Education for "serious and numerous" Clery Act violations, including failing to report forcible sex offenses.
Yale failed to report a total of four forcible sex offenses in its campus crime statistics for 2001 and 2002, according to an April 19 letter from Mary E. Gust, director of administrative actions and appeals service group at the DOE. As a result, the department is fining the university $27,500 for each offense, the letter said. The Connecticut Ivy League university also received a $27,500 fine for failing to include seven required policy statements in its annual crime reports, and another $27,500 for not including crime statistics from Yale-New Haven Hospital in its annual campus crime data.
The fines Yale faces are the result of a seven-year investigation into the university's compliance with the Clery Act, which began in 2004 and concluded in 2011. Gust noted in her letter that in 2004 Yale did correct its data, but only after the department pointed out the discrepancy.
"Students and employees must be able to rely on the institution's reported statistics," Gust wrote in the letter. "Yale's correction of the crime statistics only after the department alerted the university of its obligations in 2004 does not excuse its earlier failure to comply with its legal obligations. The correction of violations does not diminish the seriousness of not correctly reporting these incidents at the time they occurred."
Yale has since revised its policies, but the department again noted it did not excuse the Clery Act violations, and the university must pay a total of $165,000.
Yale press secretary Thomas Conroy said in a statement to The Huffington Post that student safety is "of paramount importance." The university is committed to following Clery requirements, he said.
"However, the university believes that the department's imposition of maximum fines is not warranted based on the particular situations that resulted in findings of violations and, as a result, does not meaningfully advance the goals of the Clery Act," Conroy said. "The university has therefore requested that the department reconsider and lower the fine."
Under the Clery Act, the maximum fine for failing to report an on-campus crime was $27,500 in 2002. The maximum was increased to $35,000 in 2012.
S. Daniel Carter, a campus safety expert at the VTV Family Outreach Foundation, said an Ivy League institution has not been fined for Clery violations in some time. However, he cautioned against implications for other colleges.
"The duration of this case is extremely unusual," Carter said, noting the department took a very long time to issue a fine.
Reviews are being completed much more promptly, and fine actions are taking place more quickly as of late, Carter said.
Around the same time that the DOE concluded its Clery investigation in 2011, the department opened a separate civil rights investigation into the university, stemming from a complaint filed by 16 students and alumni.
Alexandra Brodsky, one of the complainants in the civil rights case, told HuffPost she was encouraged by the DOE's decision to issue a fine for the Clery violations. (Brodsky was a junior at the time, but has since graduated. She now plans to return to Yale for law school.)
"Too often universities get away with little more than a stern talking to after they're found guilty of violating Clery or Title IX," Brodsky said, "and until the DOE shows it's serious about holding schools to their legal responsibilities, there will be no incentive to follow the law."