CSU violates Clery Act in annual campus security report
By Kourtney Husnick
Cleveland State University is once again violating the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. While The Langston sits on university-owned property and operates as “university-approved” off-campus housing, Clery Act crimes that occur in the apartment complex are not reported in the university’s annual campus security report.
“Clery reports only include areas owned, controlled and maintained by CSU or public thoroughfares immediately adjacent to CSU,” a university spokesperson explained in a statement emailed to The Cauldron. “The Langston apartments are not owned, controlled or maintained by CSU and are not included in Clery reports.”
However, the university does own the property The Langston is built on. Cleveland State leases out the land, per cleveland.com, and the complex was built as part of the university’s North Campus Project. Cuyahoga County property records also show Cleveland State’s ownership of the land, and the university lists The Langston as one of its properties on its building address directory.
“These are not dormitories,” Ronald Berkman, the university president at the time, explained to News 5 at Cleveland State’s groundbreaking ceremony for the residential and retail development area. “These are apartments in which we’ll have a diversity of tennants.”
The U.S. Department of Education spells out Clery Act reporting requirements in their “Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting,” including for on and off-campus housing. Although Cleveland State counts The Langston as off-campus housing, the property falls under the Clery Act definition of on-campus housing.
For the purposes of the Clery Act, “any student housing facility that is owned or controlled by the institution, or is located on property that is owned or controlled by the institution, and is within the reasonable contiguous geographic area that makes up the campus is considered an on-campus student housing facility,” the document reads.
Regardless of several daily crime log entries for The Langston each year, none of the Clery Act crimes are included in any part of the university’s reporting.
In the past, the 60-day crime log was not updated as frequently as the Clery Act required, a violation that was fixed after The Cauldron’s reporting during the fall semester. Currently, the crime log is missing some incidents reported to the Cleveland State University Police Department (CSUPD) during the 60-day time period.
Additionally, after reporting that appeared in the Oct. 22, 2019 issue, The Cauldron received complaints about inaccuracies related to reported stalkings in the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) verses the Clery Act statistics.
Rachel Lutner, the director of OIE and Title IX coordinator at Cleveland State, used stalking as an example for how OIE does not use Clery Act definitions for their statistics.
“Stalking is a great example,” Lutner said in an email. “OIE supports all students who come to OIE seeking assistance with stalking.”
OIE uses the stalking definition listed in the Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Violence and Retaliation.
“Students seek assistance for ‘stalking’ based on everything ranging from ‘the creepy student in my math class keeps asking me out and is following me on social media’ to actual stalking as defined in the Clery Act,” Lutner explained. “At the time that the police aggregated Clery Act data for reporting, OIE reviewed its records of ‘stalking’ and shared information with the police about those cases that could constitute stalking as defined by the Clery Act.
However, the definition of stalking in the Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Violence and Retaliation includes the Clery Act definition of stalking almost word for word, with the OIE definition containing more details than the Clery definition.
The Clery Act defines stalking as “engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to (1) Fear for the person’s safety or the safety of others; or (2) Suffer substantial emotional distress.”
Meanwhile, the university policy explains stalking as “a course of conduct directed at a specific individual that would cause a reasonable person, if aware of the conduct, under similar circumstances to fear for her, his or others’ safety, or to suffer substantial emotional distress. A course of conduct includes two or more acts, including but not limited to those in which the alleged perpetrator directly, indirectly, or through third parties, by any action, method, device, or means, follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens or communicates to or about the person toward which such conduct is directed or interferes with that person’s property.”
Lutner never responded to requests for explanation as to how there would be a difference in reporting for OIE’s statistics in comparison to the Clery Act statistics with those definitions in mind. Interview requests that included discussion of the subject were made at the beginning of December 2019, but Lutner did not confirm a meeting with The Cauldron before the release of this article after multiple attempts to follow up.
Lutner also explained that sexual assault definitions differ with OIE and the Clery Act. While the policy OIE follows defines sexual assault as “sexual contact or sexual intercourse that occurs without affirmative consent,” the Clery Act defines sexual assault under four categories (rape, fondling, incest and statutory rape) as used in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system.
Due to Lutner claiming she is “not authorized” to meet for an interview, questions about how OIE’s policy differed from the UCR definitions could not be answered. Similarly, The Cauldron was not able to get an explanation as to why campus security authority or third-party reports to OIE would not be included in the Clery Act statistics, as expected by federal reporting guidelines, regardless of also asking Lutner via email after her statement shown in the screenshotted email below.
The DOE specifies that universities must include “statistics based on reports of alleged criminal activity.” Investigations are not a requirement for crimes to be included in the annual crime statistics either.
The Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting states: It is not necessary for the crime to have been investigated by the police or a campus security authority, nor must a finding of guilt or responsibility be made to include the reported crime in your institution’s crime statistics.
Cleveland State’s complaints about the Oct. 22 article included requests from Lutner and Will Dube, the director of communications and media relations at Cleveland State, for a printed correction or letter to the editor from OIE. Questions sent to attempt a correction or follow-up article specifically on OIE’s reporting numbers were not answered, and no letter was ever provided.
Universities noncompliant with Clery Act requirements can face fines for each violation from the DOE, with the largest fine known to date hitting Penn State University at $2.4 million.