President Elson S. Floyd will appeal a $82,500 fine from the U.S. Department of Education for two campus crime report violations, a WSU spokesman said.
In 2009, the department permitted an investigation to determine if three randomly selected universities, including WSU, had violated campus crime reporting procedures required by the Clery Act, said Darin Watkins, executive director of external communication and spokesman for WSU.
While reviewing three years of WSU records, the committee found two such violations during the 2007 calendar year, Watkins said.
"These violations are less about how they were handled and more about how they were classified," he said.
The first case, a domestic violence report, should have been updated to reflect possible rape, Watkins said, bringing the statistic for sexual assault reports for 2007 to eight.
For the other case, a clerk changed a separate sexual assault report to "unfounded" to reflect the victim's testimony that no crime occurred, but only an officer is permitted to make this change, he said.
"A police officer verbally told the clerk to make the change, though," Watkins said.
In a March 8 letter, Administrative Actions and Appeals Division member Mary E. Gust wrote, "These failures have endangered WSU's students and employees who must be able to rely on the disclosures of campus crime statistics ..."
Watkins said he disagreed.
"Mischaracterizing two cases does not endanger the employees or students," he said.
Lieutenant Steven Hansen, manager for the WSU Police Department, said the recent fine has not directly impacted campus policy because many changes have occurred before WSU received the initial audit.
Department-wide training in report-writing procedures and additional administrators that review reports, one of which is Hansen, have made the WSU Police Department more accurate and efficient, Hansen said.
"The review process has improved," Hansen said. "I think that's a benefit to everybody."
Watkins said the U.S. Department of Education has been helpful in dealing with the situation, and the department refers to WSU as a model for proper practice of procedure.
WSU staff hosts training conferences to help other universities, including Oregon State University and University of Washington, meet the requirements of the Clery Act, Watkins said.
"We like what the Clery Act is supposed to do," Watkins said, "but these findings are very outdated, in our perspective."
Watkins said WSU officials have until Sept. 12 to determine their method of appeal. The officials will likely ask for an independent hearing, he said.