Dept of Ed Fines Washington State University Over Rapes

The U.S. Department for Education is to fine Washington State University for inadequately dealing with rape reports.

The Department of Education has fined Washington State University $82,500 for improperly reporting and handling two sexual assaults in 2007, writes Michael Winter at USA Today.

The fine was detailed in a letter by federal officials to WSU President Elson Floyd, over five months since a federal investigation of WSU’s campus crime statistics, the Associated Press says.

The university will appeal, Washington State spokesman, Darin Watkins, has announced.

The findings are “excessive,” said Mr. Watkins, the spokesman, who said the campus initially reported seven rapes in 2007 instead of eight, writes Josh Keller at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“To me,” he said, “it’s a reach to say that because we reported seven and not eight rape cases, somehow this puts our students and employees at risk.”

In the first case at Washington State, a woman informed campus police that she had been raped by her husband’s friend. The incident, however, was  not treated as a forcible sex offence and just classified as a “domestic dispute”. The university acknowledged that this was a mistake, officials say in the letter.

In a second incident, a reported rape on a university employee was omitted from campus reports, the letter says. This was apparently due to the fact that a records manager decided that the case was unfounded. Under the Clery Act, only a law-enforcement official should make such a determination, the letter said.

Washington State also failed to make public certain policies, such as how it prepared crime statistics or imposed sanctions for sex offenses, writes Keller. The college has since corrected its policies, but the 2007 violations remained, the letter said.

Several schools have been found in violation of the Clery Act, which requires campus notification of potential threats to students and employees, this year. The Obama administration have fined Virginia Tech $55,000 for not warning the campus about the 2007 mass shooting that killed 32 students and faculty members quickly enough.

The Education Department has acknowledged improvements in WSU’s crime reporting, but said the changes do not diminish the seriousness of the 2007 attacks.

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