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Department of Education audit on UNG finds incomplete, inaccurate crime stats for past years
University disputes findings but takes corrective action
University of North Georgia
A federal audit conducted by the U.S. Department of Education found that University of North Georgia's crime statistics for calendar years 2015-2017 were not accurate. The audit said there may have been data entry errors that caused discrepancies between what statistics were reported to the U.S. Department of Education and what was released to the public. - photo by Thomas Hartwell

An audit by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General said the University of North Georgia “did not have effective controls to ensure that it reported complete and accurate Clery Act crime statistics.” 

“North Georgia’s reported Clery Act crime statistics for calendar years 2015-2017 were not complete and accurate,” according to the audit report released Sept. 11. “As a result, the statistics did not provide reliable information to current and prospective students, their families and other members of the campus community for making decisions about personal safety and security.” 

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act was signed into law in 1990 to make public universities and colleges release crime statistics. 

The law was named after Jeanne Clery, who was raped and murdered in 1986, according to the Clery Center. 

University spokeswoman Sylvia Carson said the inspector general’s office began routine Clery Act audits in 2019 of many colleges and universities that included UNG. 

The audit found some under reporting in 2015-17 due to “inadvertent technical errors,” Carson said.  

“UNG began a proactive review of its public safety operations in 2018, and UNG continues to make improvements to its processes and policies to address issues raised in the audit and ensure compliance with the Clery Act,” Carson said in a statement. “UNG has a long-standing reputation for campus safety, and the health and safety of our university community remains our top priority.” 

The audit said there may have been data entry errors that caused discrepancies between what statistics were reported to the U.S. Department of Education and what was released to the public. 

The audit claimed the school did not have effective processes to: 

  • Identify critical information sources for the Clery Act crime statistics 
  • Collect, record, and track the information 
  • Analyze, report and document the crime statistics 
  • Provide management oversight and quality assurance over the Clery Act crime reporting process. 

The report said there were 21 unreported criminal incidents that the university should have reported from the Gainesville and Dahlonega campuses. 

The school reported 36 criminal incidents at the two campuses, but the Office of Inspector General said they should have reported at least 56 criminal incidents. One incident was reported in error for a crime that did not happen. 

The audit said there were also six incidents reported in the incorrect crime classification. 

One incident of fondling should have been reported as rape, according to the audit. 

“However, due to weaknesses in North Georgia’s internal controls, we could not identify the total number of Clery Act crimes that North Georgia should have reported during the audit period and concluded that the actual reportable number of crimes could be higher than the number we identified,” according to the audit. 

The audit found that one staff member took on the “entire crime reporting activity” in addition to the staff member’s other law enforcement duties. 

When the report’s draft was presented to the university, the university said it “did not agree with the finding or recommendations” but described 18 corrective actions the university was implementing. 

These actions included creating a full-time Clery Act coordinator position and assigning the existing executive director for business services “with the responsibility of a full-time, institution-wide focus on ethics and compliance.” 

“North Georgia stated that it was unnecessary for us to issue the finding and recommendations because it had already taken corrective actions,” according to the audit. 

The Office of Inspector General said their recommendations are “intended to ensure that North Georgia designs and implements effective internal controls” for complete and accurate crime statistics. The Federal Student Aid office can impose fines and take other punitive actions as part of enforcement. 

The university disagreed with one of the six accuracy errors and four of the unreported criminal incidents, and the Office of Inspector General removed two of the unreported criminal incidents from their report after a further review. 

“The changes to the report did not have a material effect on the finding or recommendations,” according to the audit. 

See original story from the Gainesville Times here.