The University of Montana is facing a $966,614 penalty for reporting “inaccurate and misleading” crime statistics — on everything from liquor violations to rape — from 2012 to 2015, says the U.S. Department of Education. The fine appears to be one of the highest on record for campus security issues, after the nearly $2.4 million fine levied against Pennsylvania State University, according to a federal database with statistics from 2010 to 2017 and an announcement from the Department of Education, the Missoulian reports. The university will appeal the dollar amount even though it concurs with the findings, said communications director Paula Short. She noted that the fine is based on data that UM itself reclassified after a request from the department.
“U of M doesn’t dispute the data changes, as we’re the ones that made those,” Short said. “We stand by that piece. We feel like the magnitude of the fine is something we want to discuss with the DOE.” The federal letter says the university’s violations “are very serious,” adding that “current and prospective students and employees rely on the institution to provide accurate disclosures of campus crime statistics so they can make informed decisions about their personal safety. The Jeanne Clery Act requires colleges and universities that receive federal funds to report crime statistics so the public can assess campus safety. In the past, the University of Montana swept rape reports under the rug. Since a federal investigation for mishandling reports of rape and sexual harassment and a 2013 agreement between the campus and the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education, the university has worked hard to focus on student safety.