The U.S. Department of Education is looking for $960,000 in fines from the University of Montana for inadequate crime reporting during the years 2012 to 2015. According to University Communications Director Paula Short, the University actually reported the corrected numbers themselves and they hope this fact may help reduce the amount of the fines.

“UM was the one that actually went to DOE and offered the amended statistics and the numbers that formed the basis of the fine were offered by the university,” Short said. “I think the important thing for us on this next step is, in the fine letter the DOE identifies a process by which the university can appeal the fine. We don’t dispute the statistical data that is included in the statistical findings, but we will be exercising that avenue to work with the DOE on the fine itself.”

University officials say they are working with the reporting requirements of the Clery Act, which is designed to make sure the public understands the levels of criminal activity on campuses, but they also point to the complicated nature of that crime reporting system as a potential hurdle.

“Just to give you an idea, if I as a student, if I leave my back pack in a common area during the day and someone takes it, that is not a burglary, but if I leave the back pack in that same area, but that area is then locked after hours and someone breaks in to the common area and then takes my back pack, that is,” Short said. “There is a lot that goes in to these crime statistics reporting process and the university is committed to doing it better, which is the reason why we went back and updated our statistics for those four fiscal years.”

It is unclear why the University of Montana was chosen for an audit on Clery Act reporting, but the fact that it occurred during the same time that the school was being investigated by the Department of Justice and other agencies leads many to assume that the school wasn’t selected at random.

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