UNC-Chapel Hill to Pay $1.5 Million for Misreporting Campus Crime Statistics

UNC-Chapel Hill to Pay $1.5 Million for Misreporting Campus Crime Statistics
The U.S. Department of Education building is seen in Washington on July 21, 2007. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
Bill Pan

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will pay $1.5 million in a settlement with the U.S. Department of Education, after a six-year review found "severe deficiencies" in the university's crime and safety reporting.

In a campus-wide message announcing the settlement, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said the Education Department had been investigating the university from 2013 to 2019, and the weaknesses exposed by the investigation are "disappointing."

The department looked at the UNC-Chapel Hill's crime and safety reporting between 2009 and 2017 and found "persistent failure to compile and disclose accurate and complete campus crime statistics" in annual reports and federal surveys. The university acknowledged that some 16 crimes throughout that period, including sexual offenses, aggravated assaults, and robbery, were "unintentionally omitted" from those federal-mandated reports.

In addition, the university was found to have repeatedly failed to issue a "timely warning" when those crimes occurred within the campus perimeter, as required by the federal law.

The report (pdf) also determined the UNC-Chapel Hill failed to "properly identify the campus geography." For example, the university's own police department couldn't tell whether a certain building complex was indeed owned and operated by the university as a residence facility, even though it was being advertised as "the best off-campus housing possible" in promotional material.

Under the settlement agreement announced on Tuesday, the UNC-Chapel Hill will pay a $1.5 million fine to the Education Department to resolve the dispute, without admitting any wrong doing. The university also agreed to implement organizational changes and will continue to be monitored by the department for three years, among other things.

The settlement over misreporting campus crime comes as UNC-Chapel Hill continues to delay releasing sexual assault records as ordered two months ago in a North Carolina Supreme Court ruling.

In a 4-3 decision, the state supreme court ruled in May that the university should disclose the records detailing how individuals found responsible of committing sexual crimes on campus were disciplined. The university previously said that it would be releasing the requested records by June 30.

"UNC-Chapel Hill has come under a lot of fire for denying the public access to what ought to be public records, especially in the realm of serious Title IX issues," Brooks Fuller, director of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition said, reported The Associated Press. "Public records are the property of the public and universities do their best work when they do it in the light of the day."