UT-Arlington Fined for Misreporting Crime Data

SMU has come under fire in recent months for its "non-adversarial" process for handling on-campus sexual assaults, but it's the actions of another local university that have earned censure from the federal government.

The U.S. Department of Education just levied an $82,500 fine against the University of Texas of Arlington for violating the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities that participate in federal student aid program to accurately report crime information. A review of UTA's crime logs from 2008 revealed the school didn't do that in more than two dozen cases.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has the report. The bulk of the cases involved drug, weapons, and liquor violations that were classified as "disciplinary actions" and excluded from crime statistics. The school was fined $27,500 for that.

More serious were two cases, one in which the university was found to have labeled a "forcible sex offense" as a simple assault, the other in which an aggravated assault was classified as a family violence assault. UTA got a $27,500 for each of those cases.

In a letter informing outgoing UTA President James Spaniolo of the fines, the DOE provides some more detail. The sexual offense occurred when an unknown man grabbed a student's thigh and groped her "female intimate area" through her clothing.

"Based on this fact, this incident should have been classified as a case of Forcible Fondling," the letter says, going on to define the offense as "the touching of the private body parts of another person for the purpose of sexual gratification, forcibly and/or against the person's will."

The aggravated assault offense during a fight between two roommates. One, after making a death threat, hit her in the head and stomach, then held her over an unlit stove burner by her hair and threatened to turn it on. A large section of the woman's hair was ripped out, as were both her earrings.

"Statistical data ... must be accurate and reliable," the DOE's wrote to Spaniolo. "These failures have endangered UTA's students and employees who must be able to rely on the disclosures ... to take precautions for their safety."

The Chronicle reports that UTA is appealing the fine, which is one of only about a dozen that have been handed down in the 23 years since the Clery Act was passed. A school spokeswoman told the publication that the school has revised its 2008 crime statistics and is using new computers software to help properly classify incidents.

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