Despite last year’s redesign, the sleek and sophisticated Campus Safety Services website is still missing something. And there’s a law to prove it.
The university’s daily crime reports – published online and in print for public inspection – do not comply with a 2004 state act that mandates the logs include the names and addresses of people arrested and charged, The Temple News has found.
Temple has indeed provided the necessary information mandated under the Clery Act – a federal crime reporting act that ties compliance to government dollars – but has failed to include the additional requirements under Pennsylvania’s Uniform Crime Reporting Act.
After repeated denials by Campus Safety Services to provide the names of people arrested during The Temple News’ reporting process, the paper inquired in October 2012 about Temple’s reasoning for not releasing such information, largely considered to be public.
Deputy Director of CSS Charlie Leone responded to the inquiry in an email, saying that the practice of not releasing the names has “been around the university for a number of years.”
In a months-long attempt to obtain a formal answer on behalf of the university, a Feb. 19 meeting amongst The Temple News, Leone and counsel representative Cameron Etezady made certain that university officials were unclear in their understanding of the Uniform Crime Reporting Act’s requirements.
When The Temple News pointed out the clause that details daily crime reporting requirements – including the names and addresses of people arrested and charged – Etezady said he would revisit the law and consider any necessary policy changes.
William Casey, legal counsel for State Sen. Judy Schwank, D-11, who is currently sponsoring an amendment to the Uniform Crime Reporting Act, confirmed that the university is in non-compliance by not including such information.
“If that’s not happening, somebody’s not understanding something somewhere…it’s very rare for a police department not to understand that they have to make that information public,” Casey said.
In an email statement last weekend, Ray Betzner, assistant vice president for University Communications, said the university will adjust its reporting to comply with the law.
“In the past, the university has erred on the side of privacy and not released the identities of those charged with crimes,” Betzner said. “The university reviewed its policy in light of recent requests and will make the information available in conformity with the state’s Uniform Crime Reporting Act.”
An annual form attesting to compliance of the law is due to be submitted this Friday, March 1, to the Department of Education, under whose jurisdiction the legislation falls. A January memo by L. Jill Hans, deputy secretary of the department’s office of postsecondary and higher education, reminded Pennsylvania college and university presidents of the assurance form.
As a state-related institution, Temple’s compliance and annual submission of the form is mandatory, Hans told The Temple News in an email.
Still, the university’s non-compliance raises questions regarding the oversight of the law.
“No further follow-up is done by the Pennsylvania Department of Education after the institution has reported that they are in compliance with state and federal requirements,” Hans wrote.
Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel at the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, said “a law that has no enforcement doesn’t serve any purpose.”
Although compliance is only required for state and state-related institutions, Hans said that private and for-profit institutions are also requested to abide by the requirements set forth in the Uniform Crime Reporting Act.
Crime logs at fellow state-related universities Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh and at a private institution, the University of Pennsylvania, showed that other colleges’ reports have included the required information.
In 2012, Temple Police recorded at least 280 arrests on and near Main Campus alone, according to an inspection of the daily crime logs by The Temple News.
Those arrests were not all necessarily made by campus police – but Leone said he estimated about 90 percent of arrests in the logs are made by Temple Police.
“I would say all those incidents with arrests, have been charged or cited,” Leone said in an email.
The law also specifies that any arrests made by local, state and county officials “on campuses of institutions of higher education” should still be included in daily crime logs, and furthermore, should include names and addresses of those charged.
Universities that willingly violate the law or fail to adhere to a court order to comply can face a civil penalty of up to $10,000.
The proposed amendment to the Uniform Crime Reporting Act sponsored by Schwank would further require transparency from state-related universities, particularly concerning sexual assault crimes and intimate partner violence.
The bill comes in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal that shook Penn State, and not only requires universities to report sexual crimes, but further requires them to instate preventative measures for students, faculty and staff, as well as support resources for victims.
Schwank said the proposed changes would not negate any of the requirements already laid forth in the Uniform Crime Reporting Act. If anything, she said, the bill enhances the need for transparent crime reporting on behalf of state and state-related universities.
Temple’s reluctance to provide arrest information yet again underscores the difficulty of obtaining information from state-related universities, which are only required to disclose certain financial information under the state’s Right-to-Know Law.
That open-records shield has become hotly contested in the aftermath of the Penn State scandal. Legislation has been introduced to place the four state-related universities fully under the law.
“The public is entitled to know the basics – the who, the what, the when and the where,” Melewsky said. “Hopefully this…sets an example for future compliance.”
Angelo Fichera and Ali Watkins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Update 3/5, 12:19 p.m.: Since the publishing of this article, Temple has labeled its online crime logs to be specifically compliant with federal Clery requirements. The aforementioned state-mandated arrest information is available in its print crime logs. For a full update, click here.]