U. of Penn found in violation of federal crime reporting law


School allowed to exclude crimes on streets, sidewalks between campus buildings





PENNSYLVANIA — The University of Pennsylvania was in compliance with federal laws when it defined its campus boundaries for purposes of reporting crime, the U.S. Department of Education concluded in February.

But Penn was also reprimanded for failing to include some incidents in its annual crime report, a violation of the Campus Security Act. The law requires universities accepting federal aid to publish annual reports that include crime statistics and descriptions of safety policies.

The Education Department’s review of Penn was the result of an October 1996 Philadelphia Inquirer article which stated that the school’s crime statistics for 1995 did not include crimes that had occurred on streets and sidewalks surrounding the campus. According to the article, Penn’s police had records of 181 robberies in 1995, but the university listed only 18 in its report.

Even though police patrol those surrounding areas, Penn reports only those crimes that occur on university-owned property.

University of Pennsylvania spokesman Kenneth J. Wildes Jr. was quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education as stating, “If it happens on a city street or sidewalk, it is city property. It is not included in campus property.”

The Department of Education agreed. In a letter to Penn’s president, Judith Rodin, the department wrote, “Campus is defined as any ‘property owned or controlled by an institution within the same reasonably contiguous geographic area and used by the institution in direct support of, or in a matter related to, the institution’s educational purposes.’”

In response, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., has said he is likely to offer legislation that would force colleges and universities from excluding street crime from their reports. “I can’t see how you can separate out sidewalks that go within university property,” the Associated Press quoted the senator as saying in a congressional hearing in March.

However, Penn was found in violation of federal law because it omitted from its annual crime disclosure “numerous” incidents reported at the university hospital. Several robberies, burglaries and car thefts had been reported there in 1995 and 1996.

In addition, Penn’s 1994 statistics excluded a rape reported to the school’s director of victim support as having occurred in a dormitory. Also, the university failed to report which crimes had showed evidence of hate, and it did not include 1996 arrests for liquor violations.

The department also found that the university’s method of distributing the statistics was unsatisfactory. Penn had printed the data in university publications and posted them on the Web, but that practice was too passive, relying on the “initiative of the student in obtaining a copy of the report; none constitutes a direct and active distribution to each individual,” the department wrote.

Options such as e-mailing the information to students and enclosing the annual reports in employees’ paychecks have been discussed, according to Wildes.

University officials said they would correct all shortcomings identified by the Department.


reports, Spring 1998