First Campus Security Act complaint filed
Moorhead State student says school under-reported crime statistics
MINNESOTA — A former student at Moorhead State University has filed the first official complaint under the Campus Security Act of 1990, prompting a potentially precedent-setting investigation by the Department of Education.
Two DOE investigators spent several days in Moorhead in early April, investigating what former student Margaret Jakobson claims is the school’s intentional under-reporting of campus crime. The Campus Security Act requires colleges and universities to compile and report campus crime statistics.
As of mid-July, Jakobson had not received any word from the DOE about its report, but she said she was encouraged by the investigators that came to the school.
Jakobson, an award-winning speech competitor, filed her complaints after her forensics coach refused to allow her to compete in the 1992 national speech competition. She claimed she was barred from competing because she complained that male and female members of the speech team were not treated the same, and that female members were harassed and discriminated against.
After a friend was the victim of a sexual offense on campus around the same time, Jakobson began to look at how Moorhead State reported such campus crimes in their monthly and yearly reports. She said she was surprised at the discrepancies because the numbers just did not add up.
Under the Campus Security Act, Moorhead could face fines if the DOE investigators determine that the school intentionally reported campus crime statistics wrong. No school in the country has ever been fined for intentionally not complying with the Act.
David Longanecker, the assistant secretary of post secondary education, has maintained that colleges and universities like Moorhead are not misreporting on purpose.
“Schools are trying to follow the spirit, if not the letter of the law,” he said, adding that schools are misreporting because they don’t know how to report the right way.
If investigators find that Moorhead is unintentionally misreporting, the DOE would assist them in reporting accurately, Longanecker said.
Jakobson has said she is pursuing her case not just for herself, but for all of the victims of campus crime. She has become an almost accidental scholar on campus crime reporting. She said college and university newspaper reporters from around the country have called her for advice about getting crime information about their own schools.
“All of the reporters out there are the ones who can get to the bottom of this situation,” she said.
She said there are several things she would like to see come out of her complaint. First, she said, she would like the DOE to sanction Moorhead a minimum of one percent of the funding it receives from the government. She said according to current records, MSU receives $46 million from the department, meaning they would pay $46,000 in sanctions.
She said contrary to what many critics have argued, financial sanctions do not injure students. Rather, students are more injured if schools are not sanctioned for disobeying the law.
She said she would also like the school officials involved in the case to be referred to the Department of Justice for review. The review would determine whether or not the officials knowingly provided false crime information to the U.S. government by intentionally under-reporting campus crime.
Another of Jakobson’s goals is to see universities that falsely report crime information to be punished just as stringently as if they were corporations. She said accurate crime reporting should be handled as a consumer protection issue.
Both Jakobson and Longanecker testified in June before the House Subcommittee on Post-Secondary Education, Training and Life-Long Learning about the Open Police Logs Act of 1995. The act would require more comprehensive crime reporting for colleges and universities.
She said she was encouraged by Longanecker’s testimony because he mentioned many of the things she said she has been asking for, including referring the findings of the DOE investigation to the Department of Justice for review.
Fall 1996, Minnesota, Moorhead State University, reports